Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Tricky Art of Saving Wild Species

Megan Gannon, News Editor 

Date: 16 May 2013 Time: 12:27 PM ET 

Some estimates put the planet on a pace to lose half of all species by the end of the century, and accordingly, conservation efforts in the United States have moved far beyond not shooting animals. 

However it's not always clear if our new labors to save species are herculean or Sisyphean. The only hope for sustaining America's whooping cranes might be men dressed in white costumes flying ultralight aircraft. Rescuing a single humpback whale may inadvertently leave a unique butterfly habitat destroyed. To save endangered salmon, humans might find themselves hazing sea lions with firecrackers. The future of conservation looks more and more complicated as humans become entangled in the lives of animals, and people can't always tell if their efforts will ultimately be futile, or worse, do more harm than good. 

In his new book "Wild Ones" (Penguin), which hit shelves today (May 16), Jon Mooallem tackles this maddening uncertainty through the eyes of people working with animals that have fallen victim to human whims — among them, birds dependent on people to survive, polar bears feeling the pressures of climate change, and butterflies boxed into a broken habitat. Mooallem, who is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, talked to LiveScience this week about his book and how to decide which species to save and why. The following is an interview, edited for length and clarity.

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