Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/429

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425
THE GREAT MARINE VERTEBRATES

THE CONSERVATION OF THE GREAT MARINE VERTEBRATES: IMMINENT DESTRUCTION OF THE WEALTH OF THE SEAS
By G. R. WIELAND, Ph.D.

OF THE CARNEGIE INSTITUTION OF WASHINGTON AND YALE UNIVERSITY; MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF VERTEBRATE PALEONTOLOGISTS

THE rapidity with which our large wild animals are being destroyed at the present time is scarcely realized, to say nothing of the threatened introduction of a noiseless gun. Because this or that species is usually considered by itself, it is not generally noted that in the aggregate there is scarcely a single feral form large enough to attract the bullet of the hunter but is foredoomed to speedy extermination if a public sentiment mighty to save is not soon aroused; and such sentiment must cross and recross political boundaries, must be world-wide, to be wholly effective.

Much has been said about the preservation of various birds and land mammals; but with the exception of the seal, the passing of the great animals of the sea provokes little comment. Indeed, their protection or conservation is commonly deemed impossible or not worth the while, it being invariably overlooked that not a single great animal of the sea, unless of extreme rarity like some of the gigantic cuttlefishes, is without a large economic value, and thus always sooner or later the object of an exterminating hunt. Much less is the zoologic value considered—that intrinsic side which passes far beyond more obvious utility into the domain of the philosophic, and lends to sea and land a mighty charm.

Contrariwise, students of animal history and distribution, and more especially those who go back and study the fossil record as well, can not fail to observe with alarm the unremitting warfare against all the animal kind, that, extending far into the prehistoric period to the great land turtles and moas, has with the exploration of the remote places of the earth and the arming of every savage tribe with modern weapons, become a heedless debacle. It is therefore simply in the performance of a plain every-day duty that in recent annual mid-winter meetings of various scientific societies there has been brought forward for discussion, on a broad basis, the question of animal conservation on a large scale. We may especially cite the resolution passed unanimously by the American Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists at New Haven, as follows: