Author Topic: Gorillas are the commodity of the future  (Read 1123 times)

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Offline Davedave

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Gorillas are the commodity of the future
« on: September 18, 2008, 06:52:57 PM »
The Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) continues to face imminent extinction.  The Virunga National Park has been abandoned by Congolese soldiers and left to rebel forces.  This area is home to an estimated 380 of the remaining 700 wild mountain gorillas.  They are in a "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario, trapped between the rebel forces of Laurent Nkunda and the Congolese Army.  If the Army withdraws, the rebels will likely overrun the area and the gorillas will likely be butchered as they are encountered as bush meat.  If the Army remains, this area will continue to be a front line in the fighting between the two groups, a likely "collateral damage" situation, both from direct effects and habitat destruction.  As of this morning, fighting has erupted again.  A park ranger was killed at the beginning of this month.  Mortar rounds are being fired into the Gorilla Sector.  This situation is unstable and the critically endangered mountain gorilla population here may be completely lost at any time.

The loss of the mountain gorilla would be a huge loss, not just in its own right (something which I doubt needs any more explanation from myself), but also as a commodity of the future.  Here we stand, Homo sapiens.  We have cracked the genetic code, the secrets held within our own DNA.  Genetic analysis has demonstrated that our species has experienced at least two MAJOR historical population bottlenecks, which have drastically reduced our genetic diversity as a species.  To compare, there is more genetic diversity within a 250 mile span of gorilla populations than there is within the entire population of Homo sapiens on the planet.  Yet we do not make the connection.  As we embark on an age of genetic engineering, we will sorely miss the genetic diversity we used to have.  Where might we retrieve some of that?  From our primate cousins.  While our "advanced" nations are busy spilling much blood and spending inconceivable amounts of money foolishly attempting to control the last drops of the commodity of the 20th century, who is looking forward?  Who will save the commodity of the future, the remains of a broad and robust genetic diversity lost yet still accessible to our species?  As 2029 approaches, will we regret more having not done more to secure oil fields?  I doubt it.  Oil is history.  We must move on.  The loss of the mountain gorilla and other endangered primate species will be a devastating mistake that our species will rue for centuries to come.  A few thousand troops could secure the Virunga National Park.  An additional few hundreds of millions of dollars, what we spend in one day in Iraq, could go a long way in preserving precious primate species.  Join Wildlife Direct or the IGCP, or one of the many other primate conservation groups.  Write to your elected representatives.  Get involved and let's not fuck this up.

Offline JTW

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Re: Gorillas are the commodity of the future
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2008, 11:27:28 PM »
They need to be protected. I would like to see the money being spent on Iraq distributed to places that really need the protection and there are a grave number of more pressing areas of the world that could use military protection - this and other endangered areas and of course other nations among some of the most crucial.

Human rights need to take precedence over resources. But if we can't even learn how to protect one another, how are we going to learn to protect another species?

Offline bahramthered

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Re: Gorillas are the commodity of the future
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2008, 04:05:17 AM »
Just being the Devils Advocate:


Devil's Advocate:
Why do there animals deserve protection? Many animals are under threat of extinction.

How many human should die for them?



Out of character:
With genetic research and what we know of gorillas what makes these guys so special? *serious question otherwise I would have posted it under advocate*

Offline Davedave

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Re: Gorillas are the commodity of the future
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2008, 09:47:53 AM »
As I said, beyond the usual protections that ALL endangered species ought to be protected, the fact is that decisions have to be made because we live in a real world with limited resources for this sort of thing.  In the next half-century, we will be entering an age of genetic engineering, and we are likely to be the primary targets for such advances as are made.  But having gone through at least two major historical population bottlenecks, the complement of genetic diversity in our gene pool is very, very small.  Gorillas and other primates will be the first place to look for genes that may have existed in our gene pool historically, but have been weeded out by chance events and peculiarities of our speciation events.  These animals contain many of the alleles that we have lost.  Think of it as going from only having an abridged dictionary to finding a piece of classic literature.  We have learned the language, yes, but have no way of fully appreciating the breadth and depth of the potential applications.  The genes of these primates are a treasure trove, a library of information, one that will be capable of launching us with a giant head start into the age of genetic engineering.

Offline Davedave

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Re: Gorillas are the commodity of the future
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2008, 09:48:39 AM »
How many human should die for them?

As many as necessary.

Offline bahramthered

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Re: Gorillas are the commodity of the future
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2008, 02:05:57 PM »
But they're in a bottleneck themselves. There's only 700 left and there's other species of gorilla. Why are these so special.

Not to mention there's no guarentee that they have those useful genes let alone that anyone will allow them to be inserted into their bodies.

Offline Davedave

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Re: Gorillas are the commodity of the future
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2008, 02:33:56 PM »
But they're in a bottleneck themselves. There's only 700 left and there's other species of gorilla. Why are these so special.

Even at these low numbers, they have a far greater genetic diversity than humans.

Not to mention there's no guarentee that they have those useful genes let alone that anyone will allow them to be inserted into their bodies.

It's not necessarily about direct insertion.  It's about learning the parameters of the game.  Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language from a textbook?  Have you ever seen anything in such a textbook and thought, "You know?  I bet no one says that."?  Or seen a word where you weren't sure what the given definition really meant?  Or seen a word that you later found out had an idiomatic meaning?  Or not realize at some point that there's a very simple word you don't know and never learned?

I speak Spanish.  I have learned Spanish both from school and from life.  I have heard things taught in Spanish classes that, if you said it in a bar, would silence the place.  vosotros tense, for instance.  In any Spanish-speaking area in the Western hemisphere, using that tense would immediately identify you as someone who learned Spanish from a book or a class.  I recall seeing the word sello in a lesson.  The given definition was "seal".  I had no idea whether that was a seal like a seal of approval or a seal like the animal with flippers and whiskers.  No idea.  How about juevos?  Your high school Spanish text will tell you juevos are eggs, but they're not eggs.  They're testicles, balls.  If you are a woman that is ordering eggs from a male waiter, you'd better ask for blanquillos, a word you won't find in many spanish textbooks.  And I recall a time I was in a hotel and the light bulb in the lamp blew out.  I suddenly realized that after four and a half years of Spanish, I didn't know the word for light bulb, a word any three-year-old native speaker would know.  I had to go ask the guy at the front desk for the ball of glass that makes light.  This are the things that happen to you when you have a very limited source of information, as human geneticists do.  You may be able to apply a lot of hard work and puzzle through some problems, and maybe you'll even get good or right answer, but the gorillas provide a reality check on our reasoning and our logic.  They are the ones that will tell us that saying juevos is going to elicit laughter and what you really want to say is blanquillos.  They can tell you in an instant what might have taken you a year to figure out on your own.  They can give you ideas you might never have thought of at all.  Think of the plot from the Terminator movies.  It was the leftover hand and chip that led the researchers down the path toward the Terminator to begin with.  Maybe you'd get there eventually, but the genes of the gorillas will provide a HUGE shortcut.  Like I said, the commodity of the future, the resource that people will be craving will be functional primate genes.  We're operating out of an abridged dictionary.  These animals will be the library.  Otherwise, we'll have to wait for the monkeys at the typewriters to reproduce the life works of Shakespeare, instead of simply reading the copy we already have.  Let's rescue this last pocket before its too late.