Howard the Duck (1986)

Kat Eschner's newsletter about animal-human relationships Vol. 2 Iss. 10

A tale from the dog park: Yesterday Zelda and I met a black-and-white borgi (border colley/corgi) named Momo. He’d been brought over from South Korea, where he was intended for food, by a dog rescue organization.* While we were chatting, the older European woman who had adopted him looked at him waddling around the park and said, reflectively, “I told my husband, he does look delicious.”

*On the question of dogs-as-livestock, I’ll refer you to Soleil Ho and Jieun Choi.

Image: Two mallards take flight over a lake in the 2018-2019 Federal Duck Stamp. (Credit: USFWS)

Good news: Elephant poaching in Africa sees a dramatic decline

Since its peak in 2011, elephant poaching on the continent of Africa has declined dramatically, writes Erik Stokstad for Science. “The progress seems to have resulted in large part from declining demand for ivory in China, which has banned the trade, and government action in some African countries,” he writes. East African countries such as Tanzania that are strengthening protection for their elephants are seeing diminished incidents of poaching, per Stokstad.

Extra credit: The Nature Communications article Stokstad reports on is available in full here. Take a look at the intro section to get a better sense of the geography of poaching and how different countries are affected.


This Longreads longread from Canadian freelancer Eva Holland tells the story of a land use struggle and its compelling players: the Gwich’in nation and their way of life; the Porcupine caribou herd; the oil-hungry bureaucrats and businesspeople who want what lies under their lands in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This piece is good journalism and worth your time.

The living room was dim, the thin sun of a cloudy afternoon filtering through the windows. I sat on a couch next to Calvin Tritt. He was an older, white-haired man, nearly 70. Above me on the wall, the words GWICH’IN NATION were painted in large letters.

Tritt was angry — not at me, exactly, but at everything I represented, everything that people like me had done to people like him. He gestured with his hands as he talked, his long fingers curling into fists. He remembered when things were different, he said. When everyone spoke Gwich’in, when the children were strong and disciplined and knew their culture like a second skin. That changed, he said, “because in the 1950s, their parents and grandparents were told to know their place.” They were abused in the government schools. They were punished if they spoke their language.

He was pessimistic about saving the refuge. “We don’t have power,” he said. “We don’t have any power to do anything, really.”

Then he startled me by quoting, from memory, from the 1990 film Dances With Wolves. When Kicking Bird, played by Graham Greene, asks him how many white men are coming, Kevin Costner’s character replies: “Like the stars.”

“And it’s true,” Tritt told me, raising his closed fists again. “You guys are coming. You’ll be here, and I’ll be gone, and all the animals will be gone.”

A hunting-heavy future looms for the duck stamp contest

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services plans to make hunting imagery (like duck lures) mandatory in future iterations of the “duck stamp” issued by the agency each year, writes Andy McGlashen for Audubon. But not only hunters buy the stamp, whose image also appears on a postage stamp each year–conservationists do too. “There’s no doubt that hunters play a major role in the North American model of wildlife conservation,” writes McGlashen. “...But the number of hunters is falling fast while other outdoor pursuits, such as birding and photography, are on the upswing.”

Extra credit: I love a vintage duck decoy as much as the next Nick Offerman character.

Bonus round

More things I read this week.

Please read me

My most recent work, such as it is.

  1. Protected bike lanes make the roads safer–even if you’re in a car