Posted May 6, 2014
Bird study skins in the OHS collection.
Thanks to Brad Lepper for bringing this article in the New Scientist to my attention. This is another opinion related to my recent blog about the debate concerning natural history museums collecting specimens. See this New Scientist article here.
Collecting of specimens for scientific research is an incredibly small percentage of the number of animals that are killed each year in the United States. A quick look at the statistics shows a shocking number of animals killed each year: 10.2 billion land animals were killed in 2010 for food, approximately 6.5 billion fish were killed for food, hunters took approximately 100 million animals last year, poachers killed almost as many animals as the legal hunters, and vehicles indiscriminately kill about 1 million vertebrates per day in the United States.
Collecting of animals by museums and researchers is not leading to extinction of species, while just the single factor of vehicle deaths is contributing to the problem in some cases. Examples: the Woodland Caribou has a population of about 50 individuals in northern Idaho and southern British Columbia. Their traditional migration route in the Selkirk Mountains was paved over for B.C. Highway 3, and now the U.S. Forest Service says that the single greatest threat to the population is automobiles. Florida’s miniature Key Deer have a population of only 700 individuals. The Nature Conservancy estimates that about one deer per week is killed by vehicles, and that 70% of their overall mortality is from cars. Vacationers, rather than museums, are leading to the demise of this species. The main human-caused threat to the federally endangered Florida Panther, the last remaining population of the Mountain Lion in the entire eastern United States, is vehicles. So while the debate continues on about museums and the collecting of species, and if we deplore the unnecessary killing of animals, should we shift our focus to the main causes of animal death and cruelty and away from researchers whose ultimate aim is to help species and society?
Coming soon to this blog: Where does OHS get it’s animal specimens!?