18 I CHRONICLESnonly answer pops up in the next paragraph; “It is humannnature to covet that which is scarce and unusual.” Let’snforget for the moment the problems of the elephant andnwhether controlled harvest might encourage its conservation.nThe issue here is that rarity, except to the middleman,nis not what anyone covets in ivory. Ivory is a warm,nbiological substance, beautiful on or off the elephant,npleasing to the touch. Love of ivory has its roots in biophilia^nwhether or not its possession is justified. To ignore this, orncall it perverted, suggests a certain removal from the naturalnworld.nThe rage to ban is a curious passion. To think thatnanything not banned will automatically be done is crazy, notnto mention totalitarian. It is the epitome of puritanism. Ifnthe federal government rolled back the ban on shootingnsongbirds tomorrow, nothing would happen. (This doesnwork two ways, of course; no ban on shooting them is likelynto work in northern Italy, where eating songbirds is sanctionednby custom.) Attitude is everything, and conservationists—nall conservationists, whether anti- or pro-hunting—nshould concentrate their efforts and money on, first,nhabitat preservation, and, second, on fostering the kind ofninterest in the natural world that will ensure its survivalninto the 21st century.nBesides, we owe it to ourselves to maintain some sort ofnphysical contact with nature lest we begin to doubt our rightnto exist. In 1976 John Crowley wrote the wonderful sciencenfantasy novel Beasts. In it, a group of nouveaux puritansnwithdraws from the earth into an “arcology” called Candy’snMountain, which sits in the middle of a vast wild reservation.nThey grow all their food hydroponically in thenimmense building; they never touch the earth. “Withdraw,”ntheir founder preaches. “You have done enough damage tonthe earth . . . make yourself scarce, you can do that. Leaventhe earth alone; all its miracles happen when you’re notnlooking.”nSuch is the logical end of the nature-puritan and animalnliberation movements today. No one with a biologicalnconscience would deny that, at some level, all species havenan equal “right” to exist. This, however, has never kept anynspecies from interacting with another. If you would go as farnas the inhabitants of Candy’s Mountain, why not, like somenreligious sects with similar notions of purification, take thenwhole philosophy to its logical end and withdraw entirelynfrom a messy world? It’s hard for this naturalist to see suchnattitudes as any saner than those espoused by the ReverendnJim Jones and Company.nI guess you can see where this argument is leading. I’m anfierce hands-on naturalist. I believe that a certain amount ofnactive physical and psychological contact with animals,nincluding but not limited to hunting and pet keeping, is notnonly tolerable but in fact downright necessary to thendevelopment of biophilia in the individual. Now let me takenit all one step further: I believe this cannot take effect on thengovernment level. Only individuals, never governments, cannhave a passion for animals. Covernments can’t, eitherneconomically or in their absent souls; in these days ofnCramm Rudman, they won’t; perhaps given their fickleness,nthey shouldn’t. At very least they are not going to donanything lasting for conservation without enormous privatenhelp. I might point out as examples the Peregrine Fund andnnnthe Nature Conservancy, which have been more effective atntheir given ends than any government on earth.nAnd how can we, as individuals, increase biophilia?nFor starters, I think we should get rid of the rules thatnmake it impossible to keep live things at home, rather thannthrow up barriers to private involvement with animals.nThere would probably be an increase in pet-trade animalndeaths, at least at first. But allowing individuals to possessnnative animals would undercut sleazy profiteers. You mightnalso remember that many imported animals come fromndemolished rain forests, the loss of which is the most seriousnconservation problem facing us. If informed individualsncould possess and breed such animals, they would provide anreservoir of priceless genetic material. This is not theory ornpropaganda: it has already happened. Consider Pere David’sndeer, preserved by Chinese aristocrats and the Duke ofnBedford; the eared pheasants, of which there are more inncaptivity than in their native Central Asia; the peregrine,nrescued from its North American collapse by the quixoticndedication of the Cornell and P-Fund teams, hands-onnnaturalists to a man. Aviculturists have better reserves ofnmany rare birds than their native Third World countries do.nThe breeders may or may not be selfish; what they are at thenmoment is more concerned about the various species thannany government is. When the time comes, if the timencomes, they can give stock back to the ancestral habitat.nOnce you begin to think about helping nature by privateninitiative, any number of innovative solutions becomenpossible. Take a look at ducks. Right now, their populationsnare in the middle of a crash. Reid Buckley, in an article innSporting Classics magazine, asked duck hunters to considernpaying a once-in-a-lifetime fee for a license, to be followednby annual payments of from $200 to $3,000 for differentnbag limits, the money going to habitat improvement. Mynpoint is not that this is the only way to go. It’s that only ansportsman, a duck-o-phile, would suggest paying that muchnto save the ducks. I would submit that very few puren”lookers” would do so. (On hunting in general: I’d rathernhunt my meat than buy it. Aesthetically; on grounds ofnkindness — death by predation is “natural” — even for conservation’snsake, since game uses fewer resources thannfarming. I believe hunting is superior to agriculture. But I’mnnot prejudiced, at least against small farming; a gout,nchacun.)nWhat about roadkills? I’m serious! Right now it is illegalnto pick up and in any way preserve an avian carcass or partnthereof that you can find beside the road! Yet study skinsnand skulls are intricate, thought-provoking objects, biophilicnrelics that can help us think about evolution adaptation andnconservation. Surely it is not perverse to want to keepnfeathers? Two years back I was driving near dawn in thenhigh forest of the Mescalero Apache reservation, when mynbird-hungry eyes lit on a feathered lump at the edge of thenroadside ditch. When I backed up, the lump resolved into anfreshly killed spotted owl, a rare, endangered species, thenonly one I have ever seen. I took it home and skinned out itsnbeautiful wings. I kept them for six months, but a not-tooirrationalnparanoiac voice kept telling me that if any federalnofficer on a routine falconry permit check ever wanted tonbother me about them, he had grounds for putting me (andnmy hawks) in jail. I finally tossed them in the dump,n