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A Bit of Good News

If the polar bears aren’t drowning it's flooding somewhere and drying to dust somewhere else. Or, as a folk group from my youth sang, "They're rioting in Africa. . .and Texas needs rain." Plus ça change.

With all the horrible news, a bright spot is welcome, and this week's comes from the World Wildlife Fund via MSNBC. It has to do with African rhinos, which have staged an admirable comeback over the past decade or so as poaching has been cracked down on, habitat restored, and local people involved in the tourism trade.

White rhinos, the larger of the two subspecies, have seen their numbers rise from 8,500 to 14,500 in the past ten years. Black rhinos, the smaller cousin, have gone from 2,600 to about 4,000 in the same period, which leaves them still seriously endangered but headed in a better direction than they were ten years ago. One key has been stopping the killing of the huge beasts for their horns, much prized in some versions of Asian medicine. WWF reports that rhinos have been reintroduced recently to areas in Zambia and Uganda, from which they had been extirpated.

And that's your feel-good story for the week. I'd love to hear more such stories.

But we don't want to feel too good, do we? To balance that story, we must report that the wolf-reintroduction program in the northern Rockies has been so successful that the federal government, in cahoots with the governments of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, is moving to unprotect the wolves and declare open season on them. A dozen years ago there were almost no wolves in those parts. They had been shot, poisoned, and trapped out in the 1930s. A few stragglers had wandered down from Canada, but they were very rare.

Bruce Babbitt, then the Interior Secretary, launched a reintroduction program that has been, you will pardon the expression, a howling success. Wolves are now thought to number around 1,300—so the feds and the three states have taken steps to reinstitute hunting that could reduce that number to 300—100 in each state—as biologists warn that a stable, self-perpetuating population should be at least 2,000 strong, maybe 3,000. We just can't seem to stand good news.