The survival of the milu can be explained through a combination of luck, altruism, and status seeking. The interest in animals with large horns that makes them desirable as hunting trophies and living lawn ornaments also generates a similar interest in protecting it for the sake of biodiversity, which is itself a very recent phenomenon in human civilization and in many ways represents a more advanced way of considering the responsibilities that we as the dominant have with regards to other species. At the same time, sadly, that the Chinese government was expending resources to reintroduce the milu, other less photogenic species and those that did not fit into a clear agenda were allowed to become extinct.
|A bridled doe on display at Dafeng National Nature Reserve|
One can, on the other hand, argue that it is wealthy countries with an urban middle class that places increasing emphasis on abstractions like wildlife and ecology. It requires surplus wealth to set aside otherwise profitable agricultural and resource rich lands to maintain species habitat, and certainly more to recover and reintroduce lost or endangered species. Various estimates place the cost of releasing a North American Whooping Crane into the wild at about $12,000 per bird per year.
I've not been able to find much about the Rhinoceroi that lived over regions of what is today's China. The Chinese obsession with Rhino horn and hides started with native species and only turned to Africa as a substitute source when the local population dwindled and eventually became extinct, holding out in Sichuan until the 17th century by one account. There are also indications that they were also featured in royal menageries. Scholars believe that the Rhinoceroi of China were similar to both the Sumatran and Javan species although I have not come across any DNA evidence to verify this.
|As cute as a baby panda?|
It slipped my mind while writing that there has been an ongoing attempt coordinated between Vietnam and the mainland to save a nearly extinct soft shell turtle, Rafetus swinhoei. Several years have passed since the initial efforts were initiated and yet still no viable eggs have been produced. Successful or not, this example might also serve as a model for the rhinoceroi.