It Doesn’t Take a Panda Bear to Save a Species

Just ask the late Nez Perce elder Elmer Crow Jr.  The tribal elder has watched the animal diversity change drastically following the installation of the dams along the Snake and Columbia rivers in Idaho.  Of most concern to Crow was the less than photogenic lamprey.  Eel-like in appearance with a tooth-ringed sucker for a mouth, the lamprey isn’t a looker for most sensibilities.

(Image of Pacific Lamprey, the species Elmer Crow Jr. started to rehabilitate. Image Credit: Tom Mchugh/Getty Images)

However, Elmer knew instinctively from his experience in fishery that they had a purpose in the ecosystem of the rivers.  Where once the rivers squirmed with lamprey, they now were a rare sighting.  Lacking a “flag-ship” animal – that is an animal who could promote awareness through its appeal to the public – and with only the resources available to the tribe, Elmer decides to help the lamprey himself.  With the assistance of fellow tribe members and volunteers, they use the experimental method of translocation which uses a transported sample population from a thriving portion of the animal’s natural habitat to one where numbers are decreasing.  Using their hands and large buckets, the grassroots conservationists moved young lamprey from lower in the Columbia river to the floundering community by the Snake river.  They also introduced “ladders” to save the migrating lamprey from getting snagged in the hydroelectric dams – the most dangerous point in the lamprey’s journey to spawn.

Elmer Crow

(Elmer Crow Jr. and holding one of the lamprey’s he work to save. Image Credit: Michael Durham)

Although Elmer Crow passed in 2013, his work continues through his family, his tribe, and those following his call to protect this ancient creature.

Read the in-depth article Al-Jazeera America.

Like ugly but lovable animals?  Check out: The Blobfish

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