A news item yesterday reported that dolphin and seal trainers from the US military were coming to Canada to show our Canadian forces how to train dolphins and seals to search for bombs.
Predictable howls of horror from the bunny huggers and various “animal rights” groups. Exploitation of wild animals. Putting animals at risk in the service of man. Provided dolphins and seals are treated with the same standard of care as search and rescue dogs, what is the problem?
The problem is the “cuteness” factor. Dolphins, seals and killer whales (thanks to movies like Free Willy) have it, so do pandas, rabbits and chimpanzees. Crocodiles, snakes and giant land mine detecting rats do not.
Then there is the argument that these animals are wild and should not be used in the service of man. There are two flaws to that argument, all domestic animals, or their ancestors, were once wild. Wild animals are exploited every time a zoo visitor or safari tourist pays the price of admission, or when a photographer sells a photograph or a movie of wild animals. Revenue is being generated by animals being made available for human enjoyment, either directly in real life, or indirectly through pictures in magazines or film.
People who are genuinely concerned with preservation of endangered species should be looking for new opportunities for animals to serve man not trying to stop man exploring roles that animals can fill.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin
Many of the most numerous animal species are those that have adapted to be useful to humans in some form and become domesticated. Either as food; cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry. As draft animals; horses, donkeys, cattle, Asian buffalo. As guards, hunting and herding assistants; dogs. As companions; dogs, cats, birds. Or as sporting partners, horses and dogs. Others are protected by humans because of their beauty, peacocks, swans and other birds. Most of these examples would be unable to survive either as individuals or a species if returned to the wild.
Another category is domesticated or farmed wild animals used for work, fur or food. Elephants, llamas, yaks, deer, elk, antelope, ostriches, farmed salmon, crocodiles.
Wild animals are hunted for food, horns, furs or skins or recreation. Fishing with or without the consumption of the catch for food is another example.
There are many wild animals that have become adapted to living in close proximity to man, some are considered beneficial some as pests. Example range from the scavengers like coyotes and jackals, to the opportunists; raccoons, crows, bears, baboons and monkeys, to the very clever and once rare specialists like the hadeda ibis bird of Southern Africa which has found urban lawns to be a productive hunting ground for its diet of earthworms, frogs and insects.
On a smaller scale, any number of bacteria, viruses, internal and external parasites and insects that live on or in humans.
All these examples are of species that have adapted to live in cooperation with, or be useful to, humans. The most successful are either completely controlled by humans (domestic animals, groups of domesticated wild animals) or those whose numbers do not exceed the human tolerance threshold. Bears that persist in stealing food from campers eventually get shot. Irritating, harmful or detectable levels of parasites get treated with medication.
Increasing human population, and competition for depleted resources will condemn species that cannot adapt or have no value to humans, to extinction.
How does this relate to business, Internet Marketing or Social Media?
Businesses go bust every day, people lose their jobs and cannot get new ones. The economy gets blamed, but is it the economy? The state of the economy does make things difficult but if it was just the economy more companies would be going out of business and more people losing their jobs. There are many reasons, but one of the most common is the failure to adapt to changing conditions.
One huge example of changing conditions is the impact of, and attention to Social Media.
Some businesses went at it like the bear in the campgrounds, not checking the environment, not understanding the rules and getting their hides peppered with buckshot or worse. Others were more cunning and watched, calculated, developed a strategy then launched an effective campaign without drawing unwanted or negative attention. Much like the way the leopard has become the most successful of the big cats at surviving while an increasing human population constricts its natural hunting grounds.
Others are still waiting on the edges, some planning their strategies. Some having had a look, deciding to ignore the new hunting grounds because they believe they can comfortably survive in the old. Others like the extinct quagga slowly being hunted out of existence by predators while watching habitat disappear.
Like the successful animals who have learned to survive by being useful to humans, we need to adapt to the changing conditions and develop a strategy to survive.
What is your strategy? Will you be like the bear in the camp ground, just getting a few garbage bags and a backside full of buckshot? Or resisting all change and letting your business slowly become extinct like the quagga? Or will you be the leopard, using all the changes in your environment to maximum advantage but not wasting energy on those that have no benefit?
Wishing you success.
Dolphin Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Hadeda ibis image: Jon Richfield -Wikipedia Creative Commons.
Quagga image: public domain – copyright expired