More on Mr. T (bflying in parks)

Kenelm Philip fnkwp at
Tue Sep 2 18:52:31 EDT 1997

	Neil Jones is quite correct when he says that park authorities
will base their response on past cases--this is a major problem with
bureaucracies. In my humble opinion, the majority of illegal collecting
in National Parks in the U.S. was done by amateurs who were either ignorant
of the laws, or (typical of many people) assumed that for one reason or
another the laws don't really apply to them, or just didn't care. To respond
to such cases with the assumption that international commercial poaching
_must_ be involved, unless this is proven, amounts to overkill. I am
reminded of the famous case where the gov't accused someone of 'stealing'
a document 'worth' $80,000 by copying it to a computer--and it turned out
the same document was for sale for under $20. On the other hand, most
collectors by now should be aware of this situation, and refrain from
illegal collecting unless they like to be considered international
criminals upon arrest...

	Neil commented: "...collecting (or any other form of predation) can
affect populations." Hard to argue with this as an abstract concept, but
does this mean collecting of insects should no longer be allowed? Of course
not. The mere fact that one can still obtain collecting permits for National
Parks indicates that at least some authorities are not convinced that
low levels of collecting are dangerous. It's a question of relative
importance. For a case in a different field, if cats kill 30,000 times
more birds than scientists per year, how important is it to reduce collect-
ing by scientists of common birds?
	The reproductive capacity of insects is hardly a red herring in this
context. I have seen two major crashes of butterfly populations in the
Fairbanks area--one to about 10% of normal, and one to under 2% of normal.
Both were recovered from: the first in one year, the second in two to three
years for most species. These were caused by weather (the first) and
predators (the second). Note that the absolute numbers of butterflies
in Alaska are very large. Also note that between 5 and 10 times more moose
are killed each year in Alaska than the number of butterflies taken by the
ALS, and the moose are thriving. In Sweden alone, the annual moose take is
25 to 50 times the ALS annual take in Alaska--moose are reported to be doing
fine there as well. The operations of the Alaska Lepidoptera Survey are
negligible on this scale.

	Things are no doubt very different in England--but we are talking
about U.S. National Parks here, many of which are in Alaska.

							Ken Philip
fnkwp at

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