Bison on birth control and wild horses being dragged away – stories of conservation vs. sustainability in America
Santa Catalina Island – normally referred to as ‘Catalina’ – is a picturesque, rocky island off the coast of Southern California. During the filming of a silent movie in Catalina in 1924, a small herd of bison was brought to the island, where the animals remained – and multiplied – up to the present day. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the bison numbered as many as 500 just ten years ago. But larger numbers of bison proved to be unhealthy on the limited, rocky and slow growing grasslands of Catalina and many were moved to the Great Plains or even slaughtered. Now the herd is smaller and healthier. A new, experimental way of keeping the bison herd at sustainable levels is through birth control. Watch this msnbc report for more.
In a related story, a plan to round up and remove thousands of wild horses, burros and donkeys from U.S. state of Nevada has sparked outcries from celebrities and conservationists. The Telegraph reports:
Federal officials say there are nearly 37,000 mustangs and burros on public land in the west, half of them in Nevada and 10,000 more than they feel is sustainable. […] A further 34,000 live in government corrals and pastures which are nearly full.
It is the wild horses, or mustangs – symbols of the American West – that are causing the most emotional response. Some conservationists suspect that the mustangs are being moved to suit the aims of land developers. Many also see the plan as cruel:
The roundup – which would use helicopters to drive the mustangs towards and cowboys wielding lassos – has been attacked by a string of Hollywood stars including the singer Sheryl Crow, actors Ed Harris and Lily Tomlin, and the comedian Bill Maher.
Similar to what is being tried with the bison of Catalina Island, a government sponsored contraceptive vaccine program was attempted to control the mustang population, but proved to be too expensive. Federal authorities and local Nevada State officials are concerned about mustang numbers, which they feel could cease to be sustainable if the wild horses continue to multiply unchecked.
by Graham Land