Loving a Species Too Much

Those who study or enjoy Nature often have one or more species to which they are particularly drawn. Many wildlife biologists focus on specific genera, botanists tend to study specific families, and those who just like to spend time in the woods have their favorites for which they keep their eye out. As a naturalist who must be have a strong working knowledge of biotic and abiotic elements, even I have certain animals and plants that hold particular fascination and regard. Among birds, Crows and the Black-capped Chickadee are highly respected; predators are a very interesting group, particularly how their behaviors force so many evolutionary adaptations for both their prey and themselves; and among the foundation of Earth’s biological energy, trees hold a special curiosity and respect.Ecology

But as we begin to form attachments to particular species we must not lose perspective. I’ve encountered many people who place their favorite on such a high pedestal that they despise any entity that applies pressure or threatens it.  For example, there are some birders who despise birds of prey because they seek out their favorite songbirds for sustenance. Once I had to enlighten a fox lover that her poisoning of hated mice threatens the very canid she adores. Then came a  recent email inquiry about  what insecticide to use on a hummingbird feeder pole which led to enlightening the sender that hummingbirds are insectivores, as well, and not to waste energy on a needless fight. More broadly, a commenter to an article on laudable women environmentalists still disdains Jane Goodall for standing by as a wild baby Chimp died in its mother’s arms during a research outing decades ago. No explanation that scientists tend not to interfere with natural processes in the field would suffice – Jane is just heartless and not deserving of the accolade. This is a common response by some animal rights activists who are well-intentioned but sometimes misguided as to the appropriate human response to wildlife (and sometimes domestic animals).

Each and every species, along with the chemical and physical processes that characterize planet Earth, have an essential function. It does no species any service to put so great an honor on it that other species are demonized. Such obsessions only exacerbate the practice of speciesism (human view that other species are inferior and intolerable) which has led to what many researchers refer to as the “Sixth Great Mass Extinction” currently under way.

Mitakuye Oyasin (We are all related – Lakota prayer).

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