THE WARDEN THINKS ABOUT . . . . . . . . 15
In normal times, herbivorous wild animals appear to be in prime condition and health. They have to be if each is to continue its individual existance. It is Nature's law -the survival of the fittest, which provides no safeguard for the sick, the lame and the old. It is here that the predatory beasts play so important a part in the life economy, for nature is concerned only with the maintenance and improvement, of a type, and has no concern whatsoever for the individual.
Therefore, by their constant weeding out of those animals which inferior to their companions in physical or mental ability, offer themselves more easily as prey. In doing so they ensure the general health and strength of the species, being kept up to the highest possible level; and by pulling down sick animals immediately their illness to causes them to lag, if ever so little, behind their companions, they do much to to restrain the spread of contagious maladies. Without the help of predators overstocking will occur, which will lead to the species becoming weaker, the outbreak of disease the destruction of the pasture and starvation. Within a few years the country would be a sterile desert, requiring years to recover again sustain larger mammalian life.
The same stern law of the survival of the fittest governs also the existense of the carniverous species, any member incapacitated for some reason from catching its normal prey to sustain its normal life, must die miserably.
In any wild game country where man has not yet interfered with the intricate relations between wild creatures, the carniverous animals are exactly proportioned to the stock of animals, forming their food supply. So well is the balance adjusted, that a temporary increase or decrease in one direction, is followed by a corresponding change in the other. This at first sight may appear remarkable, seeing that all the former, produce several youngat birth, whereas that latter are almost entirely restricted to one only. But, if we look a little more closely into the matter, Nature's method will become clearer to us.
Each female antilope from about her third year, produces annually, for probably at least seven or eight years, a single young one. Eliminating accidents and depletion of natural enemies, it may be confidently assrted that, under favourable natural conditions, practically every one of these young animals reach maturity, and if it happens to be a female, in due course produces its kind. The preponderance of females over males by a ratio of seven to four. It may terefore, be realizes that, given immunity from all foes, these animals will multiply at a prodigious rate. For instance the progeny of one female added to that of her daughters and granddaughters born within the period, would excluding accidents, would in nine years amount to fifteen, even supposing males and females being produced in equal numbers.
Here Nature steps in, and as ever, disregarding the individual in favour of the race, provides two checks. The first of these is the food supply, the deficiency of which tends to kill off the weaker adults,while, not only do the reproductive faculties of the residue become restricted through weakness, the mothers are in many cases unable to supply sufficient milk to the offspring born to them, only the very strongest of which accordingly survive. The second check is that part played by the carnivora, which in addition to the other toll they levy, keep down the number of useless mouths, by practically killing off all the weak and the aged. Thus in each case the survival of the fittest is maintained.
If we regard the rules governing the increase of the larger predatory beasts of the wild, we find that through nearly all the species of the order, produce several youngat birth, it is exceptional for more than half to reach maturity. In infancy they in contrast to the herbivours, extremely weak and delicate, being moreover, subject right up to puberty, to a number of infantile compaints and ailments, which without doubt, carry them off in large numbers. To what extent they do or do not survive to produce their species is, no doubt regulated by the food supply available, Firstly from their mothers and later by their own efforts.
it is obvious that after being emancipated from his mother's care, the young carnivoremust, in order to survive in the struggle for existance, be perfect in all physical and mental respects. The intensely acute senses of the animals which it is his aim to capture, perfected by ages of ceaseless efforts to escape from natural enemies, ensure that it shall be, generally not so easy matter for him to earn his daily bread, and in the wild nature, there is but one penalty for failure . . . . . . . death.
Again, the rate of breeding of the larger carnivora in a wild state is, in spite of the short periods of gestation prevalent, probably slower than is generally believed; though; no doubt, this too, may be dependent on the food supply. Where it is possible under normal conditions for these animals to increase in a certain area at a rate proportionally greater than that of the herbivora inhabiting the same, it must be obvious that through thelength and breadth of this continent, have exterminated the weaker creatures, and been reduced to preying on one another. But, so far from having been the case , in all newly discovered and inhabitated wild game countries, there exists evidence have been found to be exceedingly plentiful, and began to show signs of dimunition only after the entry of the human element.
The balance, however is so nicely adjusted, that to upset it is a Herculean task. the life cycle of of one of the larger antelopes, for example, taken to be in the wild state approximately 20 years, maybe a bit high, then 5% of all the animals would be left entirely to themselves, die annually of old age. Again, for the sake of argument, that 25% is the natural gross annual increase in ordinary years, there would then be a nett inannual increase of 20% should they not be molested by enemies.
It may be safely concluded that under average natural conditions, nearly 20% of all animals become food for the carnivora, a total of which includes the large number of young calves and fawns and lambs annually destroyed by them, as well as the old and the weary, few of which it may be supposed are allowed to die a natural death. From the latter, Hyeanas, no doubt, take their toll. There can also be included in the 20% a small percentage of deaths, from accidents and combats between males.
We are now left with a possible margin of 5% as the nett increase under favourable conditions which represents which man may draw without encroaching upon the capital. Anything in excess of this means a permanent reduction of the stock, unless the carnivora are proportionately kept down at the same time . . . . . . .
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
Convenor of the AIKONA Group.
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 141 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.