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Author Topic: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?  (Read 3676 times)

Offline thedoc

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Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« on: 22/02/2012 16:24:38 »
Introducing new species has proved disasterous for the Australian ecosystem.  So it's no wonder that ecologist David Bowman has met controversy with his suggestion that, to stablise the system, we may need to introduce even more...
Read a transcript of the interview by clicking here



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« Last Edit: 22/02/2012 16:24:38 by _system »


 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #1 on: 07/02/2012 18:58:53 »
It sounds slightly less sensible than introducing cane toads.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #2 on: 07/02/2012 22:14:24 »
Interesting idea.

I've been thinking about "Megafauna". 

One point is that if the experiment goes bad...  they would be reasonably easy to target and wipe out, whereas specifically targeting a toad is a much more difficult task.

Yesterday I went to the Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon.  It is only about a square mile, but has quite a number of wild species in a semi-wild like environment, although they do feed all the animals, at least in the winter, and likely have strict population controls.  Many of the animal species are allowed to mix somewhat, although the large cats are kept penned up.  Apparently they used to allow people to drive among the elephants, but the story is that they had gotten a second-hand circus elephant, and one day it chose to sit on someone's car.  And after that the elephants were also penned up.

Anyway, I could imagine, not necessarily releasing the elephants into the wild, but rather making a 10,000 square mile (100x100) African Megafauna Theme Park in the middle of Australia, with elephants, Zebras, Rhinos, & etc.  Would one also introduce the cats?  The Elephant pen at Wildlife Safari was built with railroad irons.  It would take a lot of railroad iron to make a 400 linear mile fence.  Especially if one wanted to build it to withstand everything from elephants to lions.

I have wondered why Africa hasn't wiped out their megafauna long ago, but it may be just a matter of time before they just disappear like the Northern White (wide mouth) Rhino (which apparently is down to 7 in the world).  Or the Quagga, with the all too familiar story...  and then there were none.

It may not be a bad idea to make a backup reserve on another continent.

North America used to have wild camels, mammoths and mastodons. 

It is quite possible that the mammoth will be cloned in the next decade or so.  Yet, I have to wonder whether it would be compatible with Modern American life to reintroduce herds of wild mammoths (or elephants) to range freely like the elk and deer.  I doubt the elephants would bother to even jump over fences.
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #3 on: 08/02/2012 14:12:12 »
Even before I read this interview, I have to say that I admire the Australian stance on the import of non-native species, even for pets.

I can imagine the horror of the thought of introducing yet another species to run rampant across the continent. They already have Cane Toads, as BC mentioned, and rabbits and even the Dingo is a non-native species.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #4 on: 08/02/2012 20:45:24 »
Invasive species constitute a global issue.  Certainly we have many invasive plants in the USA, and a few invasive animals.  I believe the Burmese Python is invasive in Florida.

What may seem to be a good idea at one time, becomes a very bad idea later.  I think Britain has invasive mink.  It may have seemed to be good idea for the garment industry a century ago, but it is less popular now that animal pelts are not being used as frequently in coats and hats.

Did the British spread foxes around the world for sport-hunting?

Megafauna (elephants, giraffes, & etc) could likely be reasonably well controlled in large wildlife parks, especially if care was done to build and maintain sturdy fences.  And, if they would get loose, they could be recaptured or hunted.  African Poachers might line up for the opportunity to legally hunt wild elephants.

If done right, the parks could evolve into a lucrative tourist business. 

The cats contribute to stability in Africa, but would be more controversial to import into a situation where they might escape.
 

Offline SeanB

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #5 on: 11/02/2012 15:01:13 »
Elephant proof fence is very hard to do. Even an electric fence with lethal voltage will not deter them if there is green food and water on the other side. They drop 2 trees to down a section of fence and walk across. If there are no trees nearby then they will bring them. The rhino's did not notice the fence and walked right through, the shock merely made them more skittish.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #6 on: 11/02/2012 22:12:28 »
I think Australia should covet their population density ranking of 235/241.

It makes more sense to import mildly destructive elephants compared to the extremely destructive humans...  which also have a tendency to not stay behind fences.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #7 on: 12/02/2012 11:55:26 »
If you plant to bring elephants, don't forget to bring the right sort of dung beetle or you will really be in the ... newspapers for your foolishness.
 

Offline SeanB

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #8 on: 12/02/2012 11:58:30 »
Low population density, but do remember that most of the country is low to no rainfall. I think there is already something to handle elephant processed plant material there, otherwise there would be an equal amount of kangaroo mounds.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #9 on: 12/02/2012 17:02:16 »
"Dung beetles tend to have a preference for a particular type of dung. "
from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Dung_Beetle_Project
You really do need the right sort of beetles.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #10 on: 12/02/2012 21:56:13 »
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Dung_Beetle_Project
You really do need the right sort of beetles.
Interesting.
I've seen maggots, but  I'm not sure if I've seen dung beetles.  I think I'll have to take a closer look next summer. 

It is interesting that they appear to be quite species and location dependent.  So, the Buffalo roamed in the central USA.  But, cattle are raised in many different climates across the USA.  And, of course, horse apples and cow pies are quite different.
 

Offline damocles

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #11 on: 16/02/2012 06:20:50 »
One point is that if the experiment goes bad...  they would be reasonably easy to target and wipe out, whereas specifically targeting a toad is a much more difficult task.


umm... That thought does not go down well in a country where we already have a huge problem with feral camels!
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #12 on: 16/02/2012 08:30:41 »
umm... That thought does not go down well in a country where we already have a huge problem with feral camels!
Really?
I heard that they're good to eat!!!

We have some wild horses in some areas.  Every once in a while the government has a roundup and allows people to adopt the wild horses.

I would think one could control or eradicate a bothersome large species, although I'm sure it is difficult to get everyone to agree to do it, so you have issues with private property boundaries.

Wild camels are supposed to be indigenous to the USA, we just don't have them left here.  Perhaps you could round them up from Australia and release them here.
 

Offline damocles

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #13 on: 16/02/2012 09:04:43 »
Yes they are good to eat. Yes some are used for hunting, some are captured for export to the Middle East and other areas where there are difficulties of supply or disease with the local stock, and some are domesticated and used locally as beasts of burden, etc. But there is a huge wild population that is still a nuisance in spoiling desert environment or dryland crops, etc., and while culling can and does occur, our vast and sparsely populated interior prevents any real possibility of extermination or even control of the wild population, as I understand it.

(This is not a problem that I know a great deal about, as I live in the moderately populous and fertile SouthEast of the country, and have only rarely encountered a few domesticated camels that have been kept on local properties.)
 

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Re: Could elephants save Australia's bioecology?
« Reply #13 on: 16/02/2012 09:04:43 »

 

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