Tessa K wrote: ↑
Mon Sep 13, 2021 4:14 pm
Anyone got any suggestions about other things we could bring back from extinction for good reasons?
Thylacines might be useful, if for example they were able to keep down some of the introduced species that are causing such damage, that are of a kind a predator like that might like to eat. Rabbits, rats, etc, for example. Sadly they would probably be no more able to eat cane toads than crocodiles.
Geoffrey Orbell, who rediscovered the presumed extinct takahe
, a NZ endemic species of flightless moorhen weighing up to 4kg, had the idea of trying to restore its population to much greater levels, because he fancied eating it for Christmas dinner. But in the succeeding 70 years, the population has only recently recovered to what it was when it was rediscovered, around 400. Although suffering all the usual problems of NZ native flightless birds - massive loss of habitat to farming, predation by dogs, stoats, etc, the main recent additional threat on top of that has been competition from the expanding range of introduced deer, which eat the particular kinds of grass the takahe likes to eat. So deer control has been important to their recent recovery. Still a long way from being available for Christmas dinner.
I have no idea why Orbell thought takahe might be good to eat. He is reported to have released the ones he captured, not eaten them. And I suppose few people have had the chance to find out for a very long time (there are 4 reports of them being accidentally shot.) The closely related, though much smaller pukeko
, isn't eaten, presumably because it isn't worth it. I had some kind of moorhen for lunch when visiting the floating villages of Inle Lake in Myanmar, and it wasn't very nice. No one was eating giant coot
in the high Andes, at least not that I noticed. (Though here's a recipe for coot sausage
from North America, recognising it is difficult to make coot edible, and attempting to make it so.) In the Falklands, they have an enormous population of sheldgeese
, which are considered something of a pest, but rarely eat them as apparently it is a major culinary challenge to turn it into something you'd want to eat. I have not been much impressed by mallard or greylag goose in comparison to the domesticated forms, either: they are very tough and the best option (to my mind) is to slow cook them in a casserole, which doesn't really compare with roast domestic duck/goose.
Though it does raise the issue of whether we might want to try and bring back moas from extinction. After all, they became extinct precisely because the Maori liked to eat them. So maybe they are really tasty. It seems possible that large ratites are in general tasty. I've eaten ostrich and that's tasty. I have some indirect evidence that rhea is tasty.* And maybe that further includes Malagasy elephant birds, as they were also hunted to extinction. The closest living relative of the elephant bird is believed to be the kiwi, that they diverged from them about 50m years ago. However the latest intelligence on ratite phylogeny is that suprisingly moas are more closely related to tinamous, a South American genus of bird, than kiwis, and that's probably even older than the kiwi/elephant bird divergence. So unfortunately the extinct large ratites are probably one of the harder things to restore.
*One day I was cycling across the desert on a gravel road in northern Argentina, in Catamarca province. I had seen only about 3 cars all day (though some very kind people had invited me me into their camp to share some barbecued goat for lunch) when I encountered a pick-up with guns sticking out in all directions. I was slightly worried for a moment, but when they stopped they seemed friendly enough. They asked if I'd seen any ostriches (avestruces), using the local colloquial term for rheas, correctly ñandúes in Spanish. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the last rhea I had seen was about 3000km away, in Patagonian Chile, so I was unable to help them. Later that evening, I treated myself to dinner out in a simple restaurant in the horribly run-down and remote small town of Andalgalá
. (I'd seen bare-bottomed children running around outside single-roomed breeze-block buildings with sheets of corrugated stuff as roofs, on the edge of town. There was a grocer in town with nothing on its shelves but one brand of biscuits. I think various local mining projects had closed or been automated resulting in massive unemployment.) I mentioned the encounter to the waiter. He replied that it was of course illegal to hunt the ostriches as they are protected and rather rare. But, he said, you could hardly blame them, especially in the present economic conditions (it was during the Argentine Great Depression of 1998-2002
), as they are so delicious.