SALT LAKE CITY — A front-page story in Monday's New York Times detailed the difficult decisions zoos are facing about which endangered species will receive sufficient financial resources to escape extinction.
"As the number of species at risk of extinction soars, zoos are increasingly being called upon to rescue and sustain animals (including) all manner of mammals, frogs, birds and insects whose populations are suddenly crashing," the Times' Leslie Koffman wrote. "To conserve animals effectively, however, zoo officials have concluded that they must winnow species in their care and devote more resources to a chosen few. If there are criticisms, they are that zoos are not transforming their mission quickly enough from entertainment to conservation."
The St. Louis Zoo, for example, has anointed the black-and-white ruffed lemur as a high priority and de facto flagship species at the zoo — while also deciding to altogether abandon any future efforts aimed at establishing a viable breeding program for the lion-tailed macaque.
The New York Times is promoting the story as the first installment of The Animal Lifeboat, "a series of articles examining the changing mission of zoos as more and more species face extinction."
In a different form of animal conservation, Canada announced Monday it will spend $17.5 million toward preventing Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes and threatening native species. Canada's contribution comes in addition to the $100 million the Obama administration has already spent on similar preventative measures.
"Silver and bighead carp (were) imported from Asia decades ago to clean fish farming ponds and sewage lagoons in the southern U.S.," the Associated Press reported Monday. "They escaped during floods and have migrated northward. ... Scientists say if the aggressive carp reach the Great Lakes, they could destabilize ecosystems and damage the $7 billion fishing industry."
The National Wildlife Federation's website specifies why and how the Asian carp poses such a serious threat to the Great Lakes: "Asian carp are fast-growing, aggressive and adaptable fish that are outcompeting native fish species for food and habitat in much of the mid-section of the United States. Temperatures in the Great Lakes are well within the fishes’ native climate range. Parts of the Great Lakes, including nutrient-rich bays, tributaries and other near-shore areas, would offer Asian carp an abundant supply of their preferred food, plankton. Plankton is also favored by most young and many adult native fishes and the voracious carp would likely strip the food web of this fundamental resource."
Additionally, the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee's website explains, "The silver variety of the Asian carp has caused direct harm to people (in U.S. rivers). The silver carp is skittish and easily startled by the sound of a boat motor. The sound causes the fish to leap as high as 10 feet out of the water. They have landed in boats, damaged property and injured people."