Technologies of Tracking and the Making of Modern Wildlife
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Most of the research for this book was completed while I was a student in MIT’s Doctoral Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society. During that period and since, Harriet Ritvo has been a thoughtful, rigorous, and generous advisor and friend. Her scholarship on human-animal relationships profoundly shaped this book, as it has many others.
Introduction: Knowing the Wild
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Many Americans in the second half of the twentieth century were fascinated with wild animals. They watched wildlife films and television shows, visited zoos, aquariums, and amusement parks with performing wild animals, donated money to organizations working to “save” baby seals, whales, pandas, tigers, and other charismatic creatures, and gave their support to politicians...
1 Cold War Game
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In search of new methods of locating, tracking, and identifying individual wild animals in their natural habitats, wildlife biologists in the 1950s looked to the electronic technologies of the Cold War and the space age. The recent invention of the transistor had made it possible to build, for the first time, radio transmitters small enough...
2 The Poetry of Wilderness
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Despite a brief flourishing of scientific research in the American national parks in the 1930s, the National Park Service’s interest in science had never been strong. As late as the 1950s, for example, the iconic grizzly bears of Yellowstone or Mount McKinley had not yet been subjected to systematic study.
3 Diplomatic and Political Subtleties
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In the 1960s, Indian biologists such as E. P. Gee and Sálim Ali began to warn that the country’s population of tigers would soon be extinct if habitat loss and hunting continued at their present rates. By the end of the decade they were joined by a number of European and American conservationists, including S. Dillon Ripley,...
4 The Regulatory Leviathan
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While radio tags had been successfully deployed on a variety of species of birds and terrestrial animals by the mid-1960s, the use of the technique to study marine animals lagged far behind. The technical and logistical challenges of radio tagging marine mammals, sea turtles, and fishes were daunting: the animals often lived in harsh and inaccessible environments;...
Conclusion: New Connections
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From the 1960s to the 1990s, disputes over wildlife radiotelemetry often pitted scientists against wilderness activists, animal protectionists, and others claiming to speak for animals and for the public. At the end of the twentieth century, radio tracking also became a means for wildlife biologists to establish connections between the animals they studied and the mass audiences whose support was necessary for effective conservation.
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Essay on Sources
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The technical development of wildlife radiotelemetry in the 1960s can be tracked through two periodicals: the Journal of Wildlife Management, which is widely available, and the Wildlife Society’s Wildlife Telemetry Newsletter (1961–1967), which can be found in the library of the University of Minnesota and a few other locations. The proceedings of the 1962 biotelemetry conference at the…
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Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 15 halftones, 1 line drawing
Publication Year: 2010
Series Title: Animals, History, Culture
Series Editor Byline: Harriet Ritvo, Series Editor