I received an irate email the other day from Luke Hunter, who is the (taking a deep breath) Global Carnivore Program Coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society and an Associate Conservation Scientist in the Science and Exploration Program.

Apparently, somebody ratted me out and sent him a copy of one of my posts where I made a passing comment about the absurd amount of darting and radio collaring that is now going on in this human-dominated world:

Here is another article where two proud researchers first trapped, then darted, then radio collared cheetahs in Iran. The process will of course be repeated over and over again until their grant money runs out.

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An excerpt from the email:

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Ordinarily I wouldn’t bother contacting you but I have copied my comment below for your edification. Had you bothered to find out more, as a serious journalist would, you might not be so flippant and poorly educated as your comments suggest. I find it ironic that your profile says that you “very much want [your] grandchildren to live on a planet where lions, tigers, and bears have not joined the long and growing list of creatures that used to be.” While you apparently spend your time posting poorly informed, un-reviewed comments online, I am spending my life attempting to achieve that in the field. You’d do better to educate yourself a little about why & how we do what we do.

I think he might have overreacted, just a tad. We are very much on the same side. What we have here is your stereotypical angry, spewing, insulting, derogatory, rant, devoid of any meaningful content and serving no useful purpose. Crap like that isn’t going to do much for the image of his organization. Luke’s male primate hormones grabbed him by his nose and dragged him to his keyboard to do their bidding. I always keep a paper towel handy to wipe the spittle off my monitor when my hormones win out over my intellect.

Here is a link that explains how and why they are trapping and sticking radio collars on the cheetahs. And if you are of a mind to make a donation to preserve biodiversity, may I suggest that the Wildlife Conservation Society is a worthy candidate.

I was pointing out, as I have on several occasions, that because it’s an adventurous and exciting thing to do, there is a hell of a lot of unnecessary darting and collaring going on in the world of wildlife biology. Take a look at the faces of those two proud young bucks. Are they having fun or what? Some of the remaining cougars in Florida have probably been darted dozens of times in their lives. A bear was killed by a dart just a few blocks from my house last year.

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Luke is of course painfully aware that capturing and darting wildlife entails a certain amount of risk but in this case he felt it was worth taking that risk. I am certainly not qualified to second-guess his decision, and that wasn’t my intent. He knows that if they manage to inadvertently kill, say, the mother of this band of cheetahs it will be a disaster on several fronts. Time will tell and I really do wish them luck.