Endangered Endemics: Ethical Conundrums

Here’s more reader participation for you:
A species is threatened with extinction at the hands of hunters. You don’t really have enough money to hide this species at your house and give it a good life. Is it better to keep it there anyway, or just let it completely die out?

When we got rained out of the Twin Lakes, plan B was a visit to Centrop — The Center for Tropical Conservation Studies. Sounds fancy, but it’s not.

One of the many great, North American beasts.

When I showed my Filipina friend Beth pictures of the animals we have in Wyoming (buffalo, bears, elk, moose, etc.) she laughed. And said, “We cannot have those here. The people will eat them all!” When I asked if the strawberry fields near her house had trouble keeping the birds away from the berries she said, “We do not have birds. The people eat them all.”

Enter the Center for Tropical Conservation Studies — a home for the threatened spotted deer, bleeding heart pigeons, wild pigs, and giant fruit bats. Also a halfway house for confiscated pythons, monkeys, birds of prey, native cats, and shore birds.

Bambi's pa with his grass ration.

The conditions here are pretty sad. The whole compound is located on a former trash dump and covers about half a football field. The animals number in the 70’s. The cages are small. The pens are bare ground currently under standing water from the typhoon. Some of the deer have wet mud all the way up to their armpits. The two keepers clearly love their charges and are at the mercy of Stillman University next door who administers the grants. The animals are bored of their monotonous diet of the two cheapest fruits and the beetle larvae the keepers hand-raise themselves (and grass for the deer). The seven-foot (confiscated) snake hasn’t eaten in a month. Because they don’t have the money to feed it a live chicken.

Despite the sad conditions, we really enjoyed our visit. One of the keepers had finished his duties for the day when we were about halfway around the loop. He approached us, started pointing out things, showing us the best viewing angles, opening up cage doors, telling us the history of the animals — it was very cool. They ask for a donation of 25 cents as a condition of entry. The keeper was so eager, so obviously in love with his work, and so underfunded that we donated* a hundred times that amount before we left.

I hope that snake gets its chicken! ♣

*We knew there was a small chance we were being scammed, but we decided we didn’t care. Karma will get the naughty people of the world!

Bats bigger than kittens?   Tropical fauna?   The center’s very own grub breeding program?   Click here.

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