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The same scientific advances that have led to increased local food production in the tropics have also inspired imaginative ways to fill the local animal protein needs of the rural people in tropical countries. Projects range from elaborate game ranching in East and South Africa to the development of simple facilities for restocking edible green iguanas in Central America. Not only have scientists successfully increased endangered animal populations through captive and controlled breeding, they have also been able to reintroduce these captive animals into their original habitats with considerable success.
In recent decades, animal breeding techniques have advanced to the point where embryos can be implanted between species within a genus. Thus, the relatively common eland antelope has been implanted with a rare bongo embryo and successfully carried to term. As our knowledge and skills improve, other rare mammals can be born to foster mothers to develop captive populations large enough for eventual reintroduction to their former habitats. Admittedly this is a slow and expensive way to maintain biodiversity and is clearly limited to a few mammal species. Such reintroductions, however, are worthwhile only if a reasonable facsimile of the original habitat exists. There is always the likelihood that all the essential components of the original habitat cannot be reproduced when the landscape is artificially restored.
The reaction of those attending and participating in the forum, however, seemed to support the idea that artificial restoration was well worth undertaking. We do indeed have an obligation to future generations to keep life on the planet as diverse as possible; for this participant, such is the principal message of this book.
What else did the audience learn from all these presentations? The scientists and scholars generally reported on work already published but seldom read by the layman. Judging from the questions from the audience, most were knowledgeable about the subject but undoubtedly learned many new details on all aspects of biodiversity, especially the magnitude of the problem.
Coverage by the major newspapers and journals spread the word beyond the forum attendees. The sessions closed with a national teleconference transmitted via satellite to more than 100 universities and other organizations throughout the nation during which the conferees questioned directly six of the principal participants. (An edited videotape of this conference is available from the National Academy Press.)
Although well publicized by environmental news standards, the critical messages generated at the symposium had to compete for the public’s attention with other seemingly more immediate problems, such as the threat of nuclear war, acid rain, and other global nest-fouling threats. World leaders, who must make hard economic choices, may be so overwhelmed by more acute problems that they may not choose to invest in the security of humanity by perpetuating biological diversity.
Despite the bleak picture of the threat of rapid extinctions, the technical advances in biology give hope for alleviation. Perhaps the symposium session most relevant to changing human behavior and to maintaining biodiversity was the last one: Ways of Seeing the Biosphere.
The concluding four speakers addressed the issue of human perceptions of and behavior toward the environment from the viewpoints of a poet, a theologian, a