I was lucky enough to catch the rerun of the BBC program The Dodo’s Guide to Avoiding Extinction. Told from the point of view of the extinct dodo this documentary gave ten pieces of advice on, as you might have guessed, how to avoid extinction. I think the points are worth listing, so here they are, along with my paraphrase and summaries. I watched it in Japanese so that my three-year-old can follow it. Surprisingly, he thought it was interesting. He is going to be an environmentalist when he grows up … I hope.
The points are my translations from the English to the Japanese dub and back into my English paraphrase.
1. steer clear of human beings
Animals (as if we are not animals) should avoid coming into contact with human beings at all cost. Coming into contact with them is risking extinction.
Adaptation is an important ability needed if a species is to keep up with human beings.
3. don’t live on an island
This is an extension of No.2. By living on an island a species evolves without change which, in itself, is a death sentence since non-native predators, once entered into the environment, will wipe the docile species out without much resistance.
4. don’t be a sitting duck
The example they gave is a North American bird species which was so passive that by scaring, pointing and shooting indiscriminately into the sky with a rifle, hunters (no matter how bad marksmen they were) were able to kill off the entire species in perhaps half a century. Estimates are that without trying they had killed on average 250,000 birds per day.
5. breed like rabbits
Australia was the example. In the early twentieth-century twelve pairs of rabbits were were brought to the planet’s largest island (or smallest continent) for research. They escaped and bred … as rabbits do. Ten years on, the population in the wild was four million from just twenty-four cuddly bunnies. That is the definition of success.
6. Get some help
Sometimes humans can “do” good. Cloning was the example given. Some species have survived because we keep them alive through genetic science. But we really should think about the reasons why we are doing it, because I don’t think it’s because we are altruistic in nature.
7. don’t be attractive to human beings
Tigers are simply so cute and loved by human beings that there is a market for their body parts. Whether it is for their fur or organs for Chinese “medicine” their population have suffered for it. Moral of the story: just don’t be liked by humans.
8. be very lucky
This isn’t the first mass extinction on the planet. It’s the sixth apparently. Everything from asteroid strikes to world devastating volcanic eruptions have wreaked havoc on Earth. Just think dinosaurs. While the first five were naturally caused extinctions, the sixth is more than likely to be (mostly) man-made.
9. don’t be too smart
Human beings’ ability to control and manipulate everything is uncanny. The way I see it is that we are the cancer of the planet and it perhaps would be a better place without us.
10. don’t worry, life will continue
The fact that the planet has had the power to rejuvenate itself time and time again is a reason we shouldn’t worry. It may take some beating but it always comes back with a vengeance. The planet is more resilient than we think. But don’t let this be a licence to do as we please. Hopefully we can prove to be smarter and wiser than that.
If you get a chance I do recommend that you watch this underrated program.