Crash: A Tale of Two Species
by Laura Tucker
A PBS Nature Program
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In Disney’s The Lion King, they sing about the Cirle of Life, how every species is dependent on each other. Sure, we may not like the idea of them eating each other, but it’s what they need to do to survive. It’s as if God set up this way, and it just works, so you hate to disrupt it. However, occasionally, humans step in and upset that balance, and things just don’t seem to work the same after that.
The horseshoe crab’s survival has become extremely endangered in recent years, and in fact it was so noticeably so, that a moratorium was placed on the harvesting of them. Because they were so readily available, they were harvested to use for fishing. Eels and conch in particular prefer them. Without any regulations placed on this, the horseshoe crab’s numbers dropped dramatically, and they became harder to find.
Because of that Circle of Life, the depletion of the horseshoe crab numbers doesn’t only affect them, it affects another species, the red knot bird. Red knots fly from Chile to the Arctic Circle to breed yearly, but because of their cross-contintental flight, they need to fatten up before and during their flight. Their first stop is in Brazil, then after flying for a few days, they land on the Atlantic coast of the U.S. to refuel. Their only food during this time is from the horseshoe crab eggs that are dug up with no chance of hatching.
Of course, you can follow along here to see the problem. With the depletion of horseshoe crabs, they don’t have as many eggs, and therefore the red knot birds don’t have enough food to refuel to make the entire length of their flight. Once this connection was made, a moratorium was placed on the harvesting of horseshoe crabs, but the problem is it takes them nine years to reach maturity before they can breed, so it could be nine years before we see a difference, and in this time, we may lose the red knot birds.
In “Crash: A Tale of Two Species,” they take you through the whole process, showing you the red knot’s year from fattening up in Chile to landing in Brazil, and later on the Atlantic shores to refuel, to the end result in the Arctic Circle. There are several teams that work to save these animals, teams that follow the red knots, documenting their progress, and others that work to save them. There are also fishermen that still capture the horseshoe crabs, as they have found great medical benefits from their “blue blood.” Yet, they are bled, then returned to the sea, saving the majority of them.
Without being overly preachy, this installment of Nature helps you to see that delicate balance of the Circle of Life, and how once man steps in and takes just one animal, even if it’s for good means, such as medical reasons and saving human lives, it can have an effect on not just that species survival, but others as well.
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