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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/432

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

mals. Evidently the values destroyed in the unreasoning hunt must already be several times as great as the market price of the product secured, to say nothing of the future. It is apparent enough that even if we deny to animals the right to live that Professor Nathorst has so justly and so eloquently maintained they have, the reduction of our problem to the sordid standard demands immediate action. Certainly no one need be reminded that it has taken nature millions of years to evolve the whales, and that it is unlikely that the feat can be again duplicated on this planet.

The great destruction of the whales is, as we see, then, mainly modern; the first six or seven hundred years of hunting previous to the use of swift launches were not so noticeably destructive. Perhaps the manner in which large animal species living under strenuous conditions and necessarily breeding slowly are so swiftly destroyed in modern times can be understood better in the case of a land form like the musk ox, to which I may briefly advert. Half sheep, half ox, this curiously interesting animal, yielding in quantity a strong under wool with a texture as fine as silk, is confined solely to the treeless arctic wastes of North America and the islands to the north; its habitat originally extended from Hudson Bay westerly to the Mackenzie River, and all through Baffin Land, and Ellesmere Land to northernmost Greenland. Though the musk ox, despite this wide range, is now becoming exceedingly scarce. Cut off by the white hunter everywhere to the south, the Eskimo of the far north, always hard on the musk ox, have at last obtained guns and are now killing the northern remnants of the original herd. Thus is this hapless denizen of the most inhospitable regions of the earth being ground between the upper and nether millstone.

As such a process must have a speedy end, it is greatly to be hoped that the musk ox can be introduced into Alaska, and that the Canadian and United States governments may soon take this subject up conjointly. It is most unfortunate that the recent Swedish attempt to introduce musk oxen into Jämtland, southern Lapland, has failed owing to local parasitic enemies.

 

Destruction of Our Sea Turtles

Taking up another group of great sea animals; no chapter in the story of destruction is quite so harrowing as that of the sea turtles of the southern coasts and islands of the United States—the more so because it is not only the original supply that has been cut off, but because there is not the least doubt but that the turtles can with slight expense be increased vastly beyond any numbers ever observed in purely natural environments.

The problem of conserving and increasing the plant-eating green turtle and the animal-eating hawksbill, which yields the tortoise shell