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'Rewilding' - Nazi programme to reintroduce killer species?

 
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 12, 2020 5:59 pm    Post subject: 'Rewilding' - Nazi programme to reintroduce killer species? Reply with quote

When the Nazis Tried to Bring Animals Back From Extinction
Their ideology of genetic purity extended to aspirations about reviving a pristine landscape with ancient animals and forests
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/when-nazis-tried-bring-animals- back-extinction-180962739/

Aurochs
Aurochs illustration from Sigismund von Herberstein's book published in 1556 (Wikimedia Commons)
By Lorraine Boissoneault
SMITHSONIANMAG.COM
MARCH 31, 2017
Born to the director of the Berlin Zoo, Lutz Heck seemed destined for the world of wildlife. But instead of simply protecting animals, Heck had a darker relationship with them: he hunted and experimented with them.

In the new movie The Zookeeper’s Wife (based on a nonfiction book of the same title by Diane Ackerman), Heck is the nemesis of Warsaw zookeepers Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who risk their lives to hide Jews in cages that once held animals. All told, the couple smuggled around 300 Jewish people through their zoo. Not only was Heck tasked with pillaging the Warsaw Zoo for animals that could be sent to Germany, he was also at work on project that began before the Nazis came to power: reinvent nature by bringing extinct species back to life.

Lutz and his younger brother, Heinz, grew up surrounded by animals and immersed in animal breeding, beginning with small creatures like rabbits. At the same time that the boys learned more about these practices, zoologists around Europe were engaged in debates about the role of humans in preventing extinction and creating new species.

“It was kicked off by all kinds of what we would consider quite weird experiments. People were trying to breed ligers and tigons,” says Clemens Driessen, a researcher in cultural geography at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands.

While breeders’ imaginations ran wild with thoughts of new species to create, closer to home, European bison, known as wisent, were going extinct in the wild. Scientists began to consider the role of zoos could play in keeping the species alive—and in Germany, to combine those answers with theories about the supposed “purity” of long-gone landscapes.

Should wisent be revitalized using American bison as breeding stock? Would the resulting offspring still be considered proper bison? As they grew older, the Heck brothers were immersed in these same questions.

According to an article written by Driessen and co-author Jamie Lorimer, Heinz saw the extinction of the wisent as the natural progression of the result of nomadic tribes overhunting. His brother, on the other hand, became more and more interested in what he considered to be “primeval German game”—an interest increasingly shared by Nazis who sought a return to a mythic German past free of racial impurities.

In his autobiography Animals: My Adventure Lutz describes being fascinated by animals he associated with that mythical past, especially wisent and the formidable aurochs.

Lutz Heck with a scaly anteater, 1940
Lutz Heck with a scaly anteater, 1940 (Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy Stock Photo)
Aurochs were large, horned cattle that went extinct in 1627 from excessive hunting and competition from domesticated cattle. The brothers believed they could recreate the animals through back-breeding: choosing existing cattle species for the right horn shape, coloration and behavior, then breeding them until they had something approximating the original animal. This was before the discovery of DNA’s double helix, so everything the brothers looked to for information on aurochs was from archaeological finds and written records. They believed that since modern cattle descended from aurochs, different cattle breeds contained the traces of their more ancient lineage.

“What my brother and I now had to do was to unite in a single breeding stock all those characteristics of the wild animal which are now found only separately in individual animals,” Heck wrote in his book. Their plan was the inverse of Russian experiments to create domesticated foxes through selective breeding—rather than breed forward with particular traits in mind, they thought they could breed backwards to eliminate the aspects of their phenotype that made them domesticated. (Similar experiments have been picked back up by modern scientists hoping to create aurochs once more, and by scientists trying to recreate the extinct quagga. Researchers disagree over whether this type of de-extinction is possible.)

The brothers traveled the continent, selecting everything from fighting cattle in Spain to Hungarian steppe cattle to create their aurochs. They studied skulls and cave paintings to decide what aurochs should look like, and both claimed success at reviving aurochs by the mid-1930s. Their cattle were tall with large horns and aggressive personalities, capable of surviving with limited human care, and in modern times would come to be called Heck cattle. The animals were spread around the country, living everywhere from the Munich Zoo to a forest on the modern-day border of Poland and Russia.

But despite their shared interest in zoology and animal husbandry, the brothers’ paths diverged greatly as the Nazis rose to power. In the early 1930s, Heinz was among the first people interned at Dachau as a political prisoner for suspected membership in the Communist Party and his brief marriage to a Jewish woman. Though Heinz was released, it was clear he would never be a great beneficiary of Nazi rule, nor did he seem to support their ideology focused on the purity of nature and the environment.

Lutz joined the Nazi Party early in its reign, and earned himself a powerful ally: Hermann Göring, Adolf Hilter’s second-in-command. The two men bonded over a shared interest in hunting and recreating ancestral German landscapes. Göring amassed political titles like trading cards, serving in many positions at once: he became the prime minister of Prussia, commander in chief of the Luftwaffe, and Reich Hunt Master and Forest Master. It was in this last position that he bestowed the title of Nature Protection Authority to Lutz, a close friend, in 1938.

Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring (Wikimedia Commons)
“Göring saw the opportunity to make nature protection part of his political empire,” says environmental historian Frank Uekotter. “He also used the funds [from the Nature Protection Law of 1935] for his estate.” The law, which created nature reserves, allowed for the designation of natural monuments, and removed the protection of private property rights, had been up for consideration for years before the Nazis came to power. Once the Nazis no longer had the shackles of the democratic process to hold them back, Göring quickly pushed the law through to enhance his prestige and promote his personal interest in hunting.

Lutz continued his back-breeding experiments with support from Göring, experimenting with tarpans (wild horses, whose Heck-created descendants still exist today) and wisent. Lutz’s creations were released in various forests and hunting reserves, where Göring could indulge his wish to recreate mythic scenes from the German epic poem Nibelungenlied (think the German version of Beowulf), in which the Teutonic hero Siegfried kills dragons and other creatures of the forest.

“Göring had a very peculiar interest in living a kind of fantasy of carrying spears and wearing peculiar dress,” Driessen says. “He had this eerie combination of childish fascination [with the poem] with the power of a murderous country behind it.” In practical terms, this meant seizing land from Poland, especially the vast wilderness of Białowieża Forest, then using it to create his own hunting reserves. This fit into the larger Nazi ideology of lebensraum, or living space, and a return to the heroic past.

“On the one hand National Socialism embraced modernity and instrumental rationality; something found in the Nazi emphasis on engineering, eugenics, experimental physics and applied mathematics,” write geographers Trevor Barnes and Claudio Minca. “On the other hand was National Socialism’s other embrace: a dark anti-modernity, the anti-enlightenment. Triumphed were tradition, a mythic past, irrational sentiment and emotion, mysticism, and a cultural essentialism that turned easily into dogma, prejudice, and much, much worse.”

In 1941 Lutz went to the Warsaw Zoo to oversee its transition to German hands. After selecting the species that would be most valuable to German zoos, he organized a private hunting party to dispatch with the rest. “These animals could not be recuperated for any meaningful reason, and Heck, with his companions, enjoyed killing them,” writes Jewish studies scholar Kitty Millet.

Millet sees an ominous connection to the Nazi ideology of racial purity. “The assumption was that the Nazis were the transitional state to the recovery of Aryan being,” Millet wrote in an email. In order to recover that racial purity, says Millet, “nature had to be transformed from a polluted space to a Nazi space.”

While Driessen sees little direct evidence of Lutz engaging with those ideas, at least in his published research, Lutz did correspond with Eugen Fischer, one of the architects of Nazi eugenics.

But his work creating aurochs and wisent for Göring shared the same conclusion as other Nazi projects. Allied forces killed the wild animals as they closed in on the Germans at the end of the war. Some Heck cattle descended from those that survived the end of the war in zoos still exist, and their movement around Europe has become a source of controversy that renews itself every few years. They’ve also been tagged as a possible component of larger European rewilding programs, such as the one envisioned by Stichting Taurus, a Dutch conservationist group Stichting Taurus.

With scientists like the Dutch and others considering the revival of extinct wildlife to help restore disturbed environments, Uekotter thinks Heck’s role in the Nazi Party can serve as a cautionary tale. “There is no value-neutral position when you talk about the environment. You need partners and, [compared to gridlock that happens in democracy,] there is a lure of the authoritarian regime that things are all of a sudden very simple,” Uekotter says. “The Nazi experience shows what you can end up with if you fall for this in a naïve way.”

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About Lorraine Boissoneault
Lorraine Boissoneault is a contributing writer to SmithsonianMag.com covering history and archaeology. She has previously written for The Atlantic, Salon, Nautilus and others. She is also the author of The Last Voyageurs: Retracing La Salle's Journey Across America. Website: http://www.lboissoneault.com/
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2020 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rewilding will make Britain a rainforest nation again
George Monbiot
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/25/rewilding-britai ns-rainforest-planting-trees

It will take vision and a willingness to confront vested interests, but we can restore our trashed ecosystems
Wed 25 Sep 2019 06.00 BST
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The forests still burn, but the world now looks away. In both the Amazon basin and the rainforests of Indonesia, the world-scorching inferno rages on, already forgotten by most of the media. Intricate living systems, species that took millions of years to evolve, are being incinerated in moments, then replaced with monocultures. Giant plumes of carbon tip us further into climate breakdown. And we’re not even talking about it.
World losing area of forest the size of the UK each year, report finds
But underneath the grief and frustration, I also feel disquiet. We rightly call on other nations to protect their stunning places. But where are our rainforests? I mean this both metaphorically and literally. Out of 218 nations, the UK ranks 189th for the intactness of its living systems. Having trashed our own wildlife, our excessive demand for meat, animal feed, timber, minerals and fossil fuels helps lay waste the rest of the world.
Among our missing ecosystems are rainforests. Rainforests are not confined to the tropics: a good definition is forest wet enough to support epiphytes – plants that grow on other plants. Particularly in the west of Britain, where tiny fragments persist, you can find trees covered in rich growths of a fern called polypody, mosses and lichens, and flowering plants climbing the lower trunks. Learning that Britain is a rainforest nation astounds us only because we have so little left.
We now know that, alongside keeping fossil fuels in the ground, natural climate solutions – using the mass restoration of nature to draw down carbon from the air – offer perhaps the last remaining chance to prevent more than 1.5C, or even 2C, of global heating. Saving the remaining rainforests and other rich ecosystems, while restoring those we have lost, is not just a nice idea: our lives may depend on it. But in countries like the UK, we urge others to act while overlooking our own disasters.
Foreigners I meet are often flabbergasted by the state of our national parks. They see the sheepwrecked deserts and grousetrashed moors and ask: “What are you protecting here?” In the name of “cultural heritage” we allow harsh commercial interests, embedded in the modern economy but dependent on public money, to complete the kind of ecological cleansing we lament in the Amazon. Sheep farming has done for our rainforests what cattle ranching is doing to Brazil’s. Then we glorify these monocultures – the scoured, treeless hills – as “wild” and “unspoilt”.
The conservation groups have manifestly failed to translate our love of nature into action
When the International Union for Conservation of Nature sought to classify our national parks, it had to invent a new category. Most of the world’s national parks are category I or II: set aside principally for nature. But all of ours are category V: places where, in practice, business comes first and nature last. Much of the land in our national parks is systematically burned. In the northern parks, this destruction is wreaked by grouse estates, and in Snowdonia by farmers. But on Dartmoor and Exmoor, the park authorities do it themselves, torching wildlife, roasting the soil, pouring carbon into the skies: everything we condemn elsewhere.
The government’s new Landscapes Review is better than I expected, but its positive proposals are in no way commensurate with our ecological and climate crises. It suggests that England’s national parks and other protected landscapes should “have a renewed mission to recover and enhance nature … simply sustaining what we have is not nearly good enough”. But it does not argue that any of our parks should aim for something better than category V. Nor does it recommend that burning should cease, or that farming should withdraw from some places to allow rainforests and other rich habitats to recover. Where is the ambition our emergencies demand?
We urgently need more trees, but we appear to believe that the only means of restoring them is planting. We have a national obsession with tree planting, which is in danger of becoming as tokenistic as bamboo toothbrushes and cotton tote bags. In many places rewilding, or natural regeneration – allowing trees to seed and spread themselves – is much faster and more effective, and tends to produce far richer habitats.
Burning gorse on Dartmoor. Photograph: Marc Hill/Alamy
All over the country, I see “conservation woodlands” that look nothing like ecological restoration and everything like commercial forestry: the ground blasted with glyphosate (a herbicide that kills everything), trees planted in straight rows, in plastic tree guards attached with cable ties to treated posts. It looks hideous, it takes decades to begin to resemble a natural forest and, in remote parts of the nation, it is often the primary cause of plastic litter, much of which is never recovered. There are no woodland creation grants in this country supporting natural regeneration: public money is pegged exclusively to the number of trees planted. This is one of the reasons for the shocking failure to meet the UK’s targets for new woodlands.
The government should follow the hierarchical approach suggested by the conservationist Steve Jones. It should fund natural regeneration wherever possible. Where trees struggle to establish themselves, it should finance assisted regeneration (clearing competing vegetation). Only where those options won’t work should it offer grants for tree planting. But while nature loves a mess, officialdom abhors one: instead of natural exuberance it seeks neat industrial rows.
Don’t expect much help from politicians. Michael Gove’s successor as environment secretary, Theresa Villiers, seems tongue-tied, apparently terrified of offending vested interests. Labour’s vote for a Green New Deal, with a 2030 deadline for decarbonisation (20 years before the government’s) is exciting. But we now need to see its commitments on industrial emissions matched by ambitious proposals for ecological restoration.
Grow your own forest: how to plant trees to help save the planet
Nor are the big conservation groups filling the void. Ours is an extraordinary situation: a nation of nature lovers, obsessed by wildlife programmes, represented by gigantic NGOs, but apparently incapable of preventing the precipitous decline of wildlife and habitats. The conservation groups have manifestly failed to translate our love of nature into action.
They betray their radical roots. The National Trust arose from the Commons Preservation Society, that tore down fences to return land to the people. Now it allows the forces it once contested to ride roughshod over its land, allowing trail hunts and exclusive grouse shoots to erode the sense of national ownership. On its Exmoor estate, in the resource book it publishes for school teachers, it celebrates burning the land. The RSPB was founded by women seeking to ban the import of birds’ plumage for hats – they eventually succeeded. Now, as independent ecologists raise massive petitions to ban driven grouse shooting, the RSPB undermines their campaigns by calling for this devastating practice to be, er, licensed. Hesitation and appeasement reign.
We should continue to mobilise against the destruction of the world’s great habitats, and its terrifying implications. But the most persuasive argument we can make is to show we mean it, by restoring our own lost wonders.
• George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

_________________
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'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
http://aangirfan.blogspot.com
http://aanirfan.blogspot.com
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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