THE CULT OF THE WILD by Boyce Rensberger


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Forget Bambi, the Big Bad Wolf, and all the other animal distortions. Refuting popular beliefs about ten species, Rensberger uses the most recent studies of free-living populations to invalidate our more persistent myths and to argue for conservation policies that recognize the needs of animals without elevating them above those of the Third World peoples most affected by them. Lions, for example, are not too proud to muscle in on a hyena's kill or to abandon two-thirds of their cubs before maturity. Wolves, greenhorn Jack London notwithstanding, are generally averse to fighting and eager--as ranchers have always maintained--for an easy meal from the livestock corral. And gorillas, despite King Kong and 60 other celluloid grotesques, are lazy vegetarians who use the daggerlike canines mostly for display. Throughout Rensberger remains respectful of the animal usually represented as most detestable--man, whose rate of aggression, contrary to Ardrey's incautious suppositions, is statistically lower (and considerably so) than that of lions, gorillas, etc. And he is wary--and weary--of the conservation cultists who would conserve any species indiscriminately, regardless of cost or overall benefits, and of the animal liberationists who fail to see that a marauding elephant constitutes a greater threat to an African farmer's investment than termites to a suburban homeowner. A valuable, unorthodox way of thinking about the problems.

Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 1977
Publisher: Doubleday