A new book, Wild Ones, by writer Jon Mooallem covers the world of people working to conserve endangered animal populations, and how that can sometimes be more complicated than we think. There are species being conserved that no longer live in their native habitat, conservation efforts that threaten the populations of other animals, and bird species that need human assistance to survive. Mooallem suggests that our relationship with animals is difficult in an age where humans have complete control of the planet, in spite of the fact that many animals were considered predators not long ago.
While the world is becoming more complicated, there is still a sense of quiet heroism portrayed for the people working on species conservation—the people who count mountain lion populations in the woods or fly ultralight planes in an effort to help whooping cranes migrate south. The people working on those projects have a steadfast devotion to conservation in the face of often frustrating or sad results. There is something about them that everyone can learn from, whether they are a conservationist or not.
The debut of the book is appropriately in line with the fortieth anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, which was signed on May 17th, 1973 by President Nixon. The law has helped restore populations such as the gray wolf and bald eagle after a time in the mid twentieth century when many species were being wiped off the map by human progress.
Conservation through the Endangered Species Act has shown that when conservation efforts are implemented effectively, saving one species can make the ecosystem thrive. The gray wolf is an excellent example. When wolf populations were returned to Yellowstone National Park, it affected the grazing behavior of the deer, allowing more plants to thrive, which shaded waters and cooled the area enough to bump up fish populations. Mooallem’s book discusses ways to improve our systems and have even more positive examples.