They're talking extinctions of big cats within MY LIFETIME. And I want to rage and weep at it.
Possibly you simply cannot understand this as viscerally as I mean it unless you yourself have heard the call of a lion in the twilight out on the savannah, out amongst the iconic flat-topped acacia trees silhouetted against the remains of a flaming African sunset lingering in the sky. Lions are a part of this picture, a part of this spell. The idea that somebody thinks that a lion skin is better spread out on the floor underneath his feet is better than a live lion out in the night of Africa makes me physically ill; trophy hunters rich enough to shell out thousands and thousands for the trophy of a big cat make me want to do murder. The incursions of ever burgeoning cattle populations into what used to be sacrosanct wildlife park borders, and the destruction of predators who see the cows as the same sort of prey as zebra and buffalo - and therefore hunt them - makes me want to just curl up and weep. Do we, as human beings, in the press of our wants and our needs, really have the right to take it upon ourselves to preside over the extinction of lions and leopards and tigers - because they make good trophies, because they are *inconvenient*, or because they become dangerous when we in fact invade their habitat? Where does it end?
I listen to a lot of talk about extinction of late. The crash of the honeybee and bumblebee populations (apparently at least partly because big environmental agencies okayed the use of pesticides which are destroying the insects and their colonies). The possibility that polar bears may not survive the loss of their habitat.
I know children who will live considerably longer than I will. I shrivel inside at the thought that those children will never know the idea of a wild polar bear in the Arctic, a wild tiger in Siberia, a wild lion in the Serengeti, a wild wolf in the taiga, or the hum of bees over a wildflower meadow in the lazy days of summer. Those children may grow up in a world where the redwoods are a memory and a myth caught on old photographs (and I, who tried to photograph them, know how bitterly inadequate a photo is to convey them); some live even today who have been deprived of the American Chestnut and the Dutch Elm, and many other trees are feeling the cold bite of increased insect predation or climate change too catastrophic for them to weather. And if pollinating bees disappear we may yet see the vanishing of many crop species which depend on their ministries to propagate. I well remember seeing an orchard of trees in Tahiti, draped with a tangle of vanilla vine, and being jaw-droppingly flabbergasted to be informed that the insect pollinator species which had once done the work of pollinating the vanilla no longer existed so that *every one of those vanilla pods on the vine was created by pollinating the flowers by human hand*. The sheer labour-intensity of this absolutely floored me. Yet it is being done, and we still have vanilla pods in our world. What happens if we suddenly have to hand-pollinate every cherry tree? Every apple tree? Every raspberry and strawberry and mulberry? EVERYTHING?...
This world, the world where the wild has hung on by a thread but where the wild still existed - this world where insects worked as human symbionts and we took care of one another - this was my world. It will never be theirs.
EXTINCTION IS FOREVER.
The day the last lion dies, if I am still alive, I don't know that I will want to go on living. I was born to share this world with the wild things. Not own it, or them.
Oh, people. Wise up. There are things which, once lost, you will *never get back*. If you have enough left of your soul to miss those things fiercely when they are gone... that will not be any consolation.