Where the Wild Things Roamed


Large herds of buffalo once trampled the Great Plains, making the landscape appear black and in motion. Wolves roamed the continent, creating complex societies. This time period now lives as legend, in accounts from early settlers and Indian stories. Scattered reserves are home to relatively small populations.

A recently study by scientists from the Princeton University and the World Wildlife Fund found the story of the buffalo and the wolf common on a global scale. The study found that less than 21% of the earth’s land surface still contains all the large mammals (at least 44 pounds or 20 kilograms) than it did in the year 1500.

About 500 years ago, the earth was in a time of great transition as colonization began increasing significantly. Farming was introduced to new regions, often contributing to the decline of large mammal populations.

These animals have a significant effect on the health and function of ecosystems because large mammals are often top predators and sculpt the landscape. Their disappearance can cause other populations to fluctuate greatly if an equilibrium is broken.

“Perhaps the most striking result of our study is that those 109 places that still retain the same roster of large mammals as in 1500AD are either small, intensively managed reserves or places of extremes,” says John Morrison, WWF’s Director of Conservation Measures and lead author of the study. “Remote areas are either too hot, dry, wet, frozen or swampy to support intensive human activities.”

This study speaks to the effects that human populations often have on large mammals and can be used as a tool to shape future action. Eric Dinerstein, WWF’s Chief Scientist and Vice-President of Conservation Science said, “The obvious question we always ask ourselves is: How does this information help us? First, we can now pinpoint places where large mammal assemblages still play important roles in terrestrial ecosystems. Second, we now have targets where through strategic reintroductions – such as returning wolves to Yellowstone – we can restore intactness in places missing one or two species and recover the ecological fabric of these important conservation landscapes.”

Several geographic areas have been identified as priorities of long-term conservation efforts. The Great Plains of North America, the Eastern Himalayas, and Ninibia will be targeted to restore species and bring back populations to levels sufficient to play important ecological roles.

This study highlights the both the effects of human impacts on mammal populations and the opportunity to shift our relationship with these communities.

4 thoughts on “Where the Wild Things Roamed”

  1. I read your article with interest and decided to reply with my own words. Please read it all as I think most of it applies to what you said.

    In these days of uncertainty, of rising prices and ever rising energy consumption, is this not the perfect time to consider simplifying our lives.

    In my humble opinion the population at large has to be much less selfish and spoiled. We must all seriously consider, at least for the next few years, giving up luxurious living, using water and energy as though it grows on trees, spending more money than we can afford on unnecessary vehicles, large luxurious homes with all the expenses that these luxuries entail. Does it not make sense to get out of debt?

    How much longer can this planet survive if we continue to teach our children and grandchildren that more is better?

    I have been trying to sell my 1.86 acre desert property (see above picture) for over six months now without any offers. I believe the main reason for this is that I have an older single wide mobile home which most people either do not want or cannot finance.

    Of course the sellers market is non-existent at this time, why, because people have been so greedy; previously, property prices were exploding out of all proportion.

    Now the bubble has burst, as of course it was bound to do. Foreclosures are increasing in droves, people losing their homes because they were unwilling to simplify and settle for something less than they had. Well now they have a lot less, they don’t even have a home in a lot of cases.

    We have to ask ourselves where does that leave our children? Is it their fault that their parents only think of themselves and not the larger picture? I think not.

    It is time we got back to nature and consider our Mother Earth more.

    Returning to living off the land a little, growing our own vegetables, raising chickens, using their waste to enrich the soil, eating the wonderful fresh laid eggs they produce, would benefit everyone.

    It is also time, I think to re-introduce the native way of living; taking from the earth only what is needed instead of grabbing everything now.

    When the natives lived here freely, before the last century, they killed for food, clothing, and their housing. When they cut down a tree it was just that, one tree. They used only what they needed for a particular ceremony or purpose. They didn’t take every tree surrounding it!!

    I wonder how long it will be before we all have to surrender to the earth. If we don’t volunteer to do this very soon it will be forced upon us by circumstances, and those circumstances are getting closer and closer to reality.

  2. Noelle dEstries

    Perhaps because of global warming…more of these “extreme” places will start popping up. Good for them, bad for us!

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