Born Free USA Blog
A few weeks ago a team of paleontologists from the United States and Canada gave us this Mesozoic Era news flash: A careful examination of bones suggests that Tyrannosaurus rex would bite each other. Take that, Donner Party!
Considering they’ve been extinct for 65 million years, dinosaurs sure do receive lots of attention. They’re on TV shows, movies, backpacks, cereal boxes, clothing labels, team uniforms, coloring books, trading cards and about 65 million other things. The website Enchanted Learning, which lists more than 50 dinosaur museums and parks in the United States and six more in Canada, solicits and shares dinosaur jokes, including the admittedly amusing: “Why did the Archaeopteryx catch the worm? Because it was an early bird!”
And yet, dinosaurs were creatures that humans surely would have wanted to avoid had the two species even come close to cohabiting the planet. (Would you believe a 61.5 million-year buffer zone? No? Well, this blog’s not for you, then.)
What’s wrong with our ravenous appetite for tidbits about T-rex and the rest of the rascally reptiles of yore? Nothing much, really, except that it probably distracts us from thinking about species who are disappearing during our lifetimes. Bald eagles, pandas, polar bears, grizzly bears, ostriches, tigers — the list is long and growing, yet our children and childlike adults are being relentlessly programmed to love what is, for all purposes, a fantasy. Which is a shame, because even a fraction of all the time and money we spend on dinosaurs could do a lot of good if it were redirected toward pressing wildlife realities.
Realities, by the way, that include the stunningly brutal slaughter of sharks, a species who predate the dinosaurs. Environmental activists estimate up to 73 million are killed each year — just so people can eat shark fin soup! And the noble beetle, an Earth inhabitant for some 300 million years, is mindlessly treated as an evil pest. Some subspecies, including the American burying beetle, are endangered.
To think about how animals are treated today can be overwhelmingly depressing. To dwell on dinosaurs is more fun. But when we obsess about cannibalistic T-rex, we’re fiddling while Rome burns.