Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/210

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

was placed on the educational side. It has led in artistic methods of mounting animals and exhibiting groups and has perhaps more than any other museum developed public lectures and relations with the schools of the city. Under President Henry F. Osborn, elected to the office in 1908, and under Dr. F. A. Lucas, elected director in May of this year, we may be sure that the popularization of the exhibits will be carried forward, while at the same time every effort will be made to draw to the museum officers of the highest scientific standing and to give them full opportunity to use its resources and collections for the advancement of science.


The fur seal treaty signed at Washington this month by representatives of the United States, Great Britain, Russia and Japan is the solution of a problem of much scientific and practical interest and at the same time an important extension of international arbitration. By the treaty the United States and Russia agree to give Canada and Japan thirty per cent, of the skins of the seals killed on the rookeries on condition that they will refrain from pelagic sealing. The powers agree to admit no skins the origin of which is unknown, and steps are to be taken to persuade other countries to prevent the use of their flags on the high seas by poachers. Provision is made for the patrol of the waters by representatives of the nations concerned. The agreement is to last for fifteen years and thereafter until it is denounced by one of the powers.

There is thus settled a problem that for many years has offended humanitarian sentiment and has even been in danger of causing international complications. In the year 1882 there were more than two million seals which went annually in the spring to the Pribilof and Commander Islands, where their young were born and reared. At about that time pelagic sealing, or the killing of seals on the high seas, came into vogue, the number of skins taken increasing from 10,000 in 1881 to 62,000 in 1894. It is said that for each skin taken, probably four seals are killed and lost. Eighty per cent, of the seals killed in this way are pregnant females, which at the same time are nursing their pups on shore, and the death of each sacrifices three lives. It is no wonder, consequently, that the whole number of seals has now been reduced to 150,000 and that they, like the sperm whale, are in danger of extinction. The seals on their breeding grounds can be treated like other domestic animals. The seal is polygamous and each male tries to obtain a harem of from ten to one hundred females. As there are an equal number of males, most of them can not succeed; they are isolated by the other males, and can be driven off like a flock of sheep and killed without injury to the herd, indeed, with benefit to it, as the fighting between the males and the incidental killing of females and young is thus prevented.

Since 1870 the United States government has received about ten million dollars by leasing the right to kill superfluous males on the Pribilof Islands—a larger sum than was paid for Alaska. In 1893 an agreement was made by which Canadians undertook not to engage in pelagic sealing within sixty miles of the Pribilof Islands, Russia and the United States having already forbidden this practise to their citizens. It was, however, found possible to engage in pelagic sealing at greater distances from the islands, and the greatest difficulty was caused by the Japanese, who were not a party to the agreement, engaging in pelagic sealing within three miles of the islands. In 1909 the Japanese pelagic fleet consisted of 23 vessels compared with five from Canada. Hence the need of the new treaty, which has been