Lecture 4 - Wildlife Depletion

Egyptians decimated wildlife from hunting, birds from netting.

Egyptians basically eliminated trees for construction, fuel, and sacrifices to the gods.

Greek-Orion boasted he would kill every wild beast in the world. Artemis, goddess of the wild (or Gaia Mother Earth) was offended, sent a giant scorpion to sting Orion. Zeus intervened, Zap Orion and scorpion transformed into constellations opposing one another. Gods and goddesses were protectors of species. Certain animals were permissible ( stag) to hunt, others not (sacred cattle, wolf), god and goddesses even appeared in shapes of animals.
Emperors, kings, and landowners set as animal preserves for food, hunting, and sanctuaries. Sacred groves were wildlife refuges. No hunters or engines of the hunt were permitted (dogs and weapons). Wild animals typically were sacred. Domestic animals used for food.

Poets and commentators noted reduction and loss of flock of beasts of prey.

Although hunting in moderation was deemed beneficial, other factors stimulated over hunting. Especially professional hunters to provide food for market. Subsistence hunting and fishing used to provide fare to accompany agricultural produce. Commercial hunters went after wild meats, netted birds. Parts of animals, birds, fish, and turtles also had commercial value. In the Hellenistic period, animals were used to sacrifice to the gods and goddesses. Some wild animals were domesticated for use in warfare (elephants, camels), a practice which accelerated under the Romans.

Romans procured a variety of animals for the arena. Elephants, rhinos, and zebras became extinct in North Africa. Crocodiles, and hippos were under extreme pressure along parts of the Nile River.

In both Greece and Rome non-native species often were introduced periodically upsetting local ecological niches.

Habitat destruction for animal and wildlife was wrought by clearing of forest, spread of agriculture, overgrazing of grasslands, draining of lakes, swamps, and marshes, and irrigation for farmland along canals, and rivers.

Destruction of herds using fire and stampede often lead to over kills speeding extinction of species. This strategy was used by cultures from hunting and gathering, sedentary agriculture, to manufacturing cultures.

Course Bibliography prepared by Jones at Bucknell-Also parallels Hughes in framing the course