Will Sylvester the Wayward Lion be Reprieved?

Animals always draw the short straw in their interaction with humans. Sylvester the Lion is merely the latest in that long line. What was the National Parks knee-jerk reaction? Sylvester must be killed. This attitude prevailed until such time as the chorus of opposition became too vociferous. At that point, euthanasia became one amongst an array of options such as relocation.

Main picture: Sylvester the Lion is at large again after once again having escaped from the Karroo National Park. So far he has alluded all attempts at capture.

One hundred and seventy years ago the area surrounding the Karoo National Park was teeming with lions. The last wild lion in the area was shot in 1842. Lions were re-introduced to Karoo National Park, in Western Cape Province in 2010 after their prolonged absence.

Contrast the current range of lions in South Africa and compare it with that of two hundred and fifty years ago. Then the big five were endemic to most of Southern Africa. What is left of those once large herds, prides and flocks?

Wouldn’t it be more humane to tranquilise Sylvester & relocate him to a park where the fencing is lion proof?

Sylvester the Lion

In what can only be termed an animal genocide, these herds have been systematically annihilated.

American Bison

Let us take another example where the extent of the devastation was even more extensive: the North American Bison

Prior to 1800, it is estimated that the Buffalo population amounted to 60 million beasts. With selective hunting, these vast herds could easily support the contemporary human population of the USA. Instead what occurred was the wanton destruction of this prairie animal. It goes without saying that the victor in the unequal contest between rifle and animal would not be the Bison. By 1900, the once vast herds had effectively been decimated. The total Bison population stood at 325. The bison was facing extinction. It was only then that the enormity of the calamity was realised.

A mountain of bison skulls dating to the mid 1870s

A mountain of bison skulls dating to the mid 1870s


Year American bison


Pre-1800 60,000,000
1830 40,000,000
1840 35,650,000
1870 5,500,000
1880 395,000
1889 541 (U.S.)
1900 300 (U.S.)
1944-47 5,000 (U.S.) 15,000 (Canada)
1951 23,340
2000 360,000

Whereas the Native Americans tribes once lived in harmony with these migratory herds, while using the bison for food, as well as their hides for clothing and shelter, and their bones for tools and weapons, American settlers advancing from the east were hungry for more land and more resources, including bison. Hunters on cross-country trains would even take aim at the wild creatures from their windows and shoot down several at a time.

.The extermination of the Bison

The bison would ultimately symbolize the dark, ugly side of “manifest destiny” which the American Settlers espoused.

What did the American bison originally symbolise. It epitomised a vast limitless country with endless opportunity.

Unlike the Native Americans who used all the by-products of the Buffalo, the Settlers skinned them for coats and removed their tongues as a delicacy. Like the ultimately disposable society that the modern USA was to become, the bulk of the bison – its meat – was left to rot unused and unwanted.

Bison hunting

This egregious waste is akin to the current delicacy, shark fin soup in which only the tasteless fins are used. The defined shark is then tossed back into the water to drown.

The full extent of the massacre can be grasped from the numbers of bison hides shipped east between just 1872 and 1874 from one railroad company alone. It amounted to 500,000.

What factors drove the mass slaughter of the buffalo? Foremost amongst them was the settlers overarching view on their manifest destiny, the quasi-religious belief that American settlers were destined to own the land of the New World all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific. seemed to view the animal as just one small step in manifest destiny. Even the extermination of Native American populations — another enormous casualty of manifest destiny — is directly tied to the bison.

Range history of Bison in North America

In 1873 Columbus Delano eloquently articulated that world view by proclaiming that “I would not seriously regret the total disappearance of the buffalo from our western plains, in its effect upon the Indians.” It is stating the obvious that such utterance were the precursor of strained and flawed inter racial relations.

Range history of Bison in North America-Explanation

Unlike the mindless wanton extermination of the bison, often the killing is unintentional. The effect on animal populations is just as pernicious.

Whales starving to death

Consider the current situation regarding the deaths of whales in the north Atlantic.

Take another case which is currently receiving publicity in the UK: whales.

Whales dying due to the ingestion of plastic

Whales dying due to the ingestion of plastic

The recent post-mortem on thirteen dead sperm whales found their stomachs to be full of plastic. This included a 13-metre-long fisherman’s net and a 70-centimetre piece of plastic from a car. These whales were found beached near the town of Toenning in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.


Plastic recovered from a dead whale's stomach

Plastic recovered from a dead whale’s stomach

All of the whales were male aged between 10 and 15 years old. What was surprising that all of them were severely underweight. Whereas the average weight of a sperm whale is between 32 to 41 tonnes, they all weighed around 15 tonnes. Scientists speculate that it was likely that they perished from heart failure due to starvation. According to Schleswig-Holstein’s environment Minister Robert Habeck , “Animals inadvertently consume plastic and plastic waste which causes them to suffer and at worst, causes them to starve with full stomachs.”

How sad.

Plastic recovered from a dead whale's stomach#2

The starvation of these majestic creatures is a concomitant of mankind’s addiction to plastics and the disposable society.

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