Had a dream of a remarkable wolf. It said it was from an extinct ancestral species. There were great mountains around us. I got curious and looked a few things up.
Timing couldn’t have been much better. In 2004, scientists examined mitochondrial DNA and cleared up a lot of questions about speciation and ancestry:
Here’s the Smithsonian’s article with that graphic: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/SCBI/SpotlightOnScience/fleischer2003108.cfm
Until this study, all canids except maned wolves (truly ancient) and coyotes were thought to be basically a type of grey wolf; Tibetan and Himalayan wolves were different flavors of the same breed. (The web being what it is, the old ideas of the much-loved grey wolf being the grand-daddy of them all still show up everywhere.)
Turns out the beautiful and sweet-faced Himalayan wolf is the ancestral canid from which Tibetan wolves, grey wolves, Mexican wolves, red wolves and modern dogs (from molossers to dachsunds) are all descended.
The adorable mutt I grew up with. The huge, terrifying sheepdogs of Turkey, where I was born. The overdressed show poodle that walks my marina. The chihuahua who helped fix my boat. All from the Himalayan wolf.
There are only 350 of this extraordinary species left, as of 2004.
The main problem? Human ignorance, voraciousness and violence.
Because 12 billion of us just isn’t enough, humans are expanding cultivable and buildable land every day to feed still more. I’m not sure why this is still seen as a better option than parental education and birth control, which are tragically underfunded worldwide.
Wolves are hunted for sport, because some people just have to prove they’re better than anything that doesn’t have ballistics and steel.
Wolves are hunted out of fear, because they are the bugaboos of Himalayan legend — since wolves have been made metaphors for the vilest traits of humanity in Europe and Asia alike. They aren’t like that, we just wish they were, so we wouldn’t realize we are looking in the mirror when we think of unrelenting evil.
They are hunted for killing livestock, which they do in the winter … But the ranchers who keep a couple donkeys with their herds, never lose animals to wolves. Donkeys have no fear of wolves and will kick the living snot out of anything that attacks their herd. Many ranchers don’t know this! Livestock predation is a stupid problem with an easy fix.
Rumor has it there’s a captive breeding program in India, but I haven’t been able to track it down online. I’d be happy to make a website for them with a big, persuasive “Donate” button.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep looking.
Turns out that donations aren’t possible: http://wildlifesaviour.blogspot.com/2011/05/himalayan-wolf.html. HOW is that POSSIBLE? Further research needed, apparently.