Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"The New Unnormal"

What is so disturbing about the goose gassings that occurred last year at Prospect Park (and other city locations) is that both, public understanding of wildlife and trust in the system have, in many ways, been compromised and decimated. 
We the people don't know what to expect anymore and have to be prepared for anything.
"Normal" things can be suddenly suspect.
On the For the Love of Prospect Park Geese Facebook page (For the love of the geese in Prospect Park (92)) someone recently posted that the park is issuing more tickets for those in the park past 1 AM.
There are two ways to look at what now appears to be a sudden enforcing of park rules:
1-- The park normally ups enforcement during the warm weather when more people are likely to be testing the hours rules.
2-- USDA is coming back to round up the Prospect Park geese and the city, park and feds want to insure that no one is around to document or call the press.
Of the two possibilities obviously, the first one is nothing to be concerned about, but the latter one is.  The problem is, we don't know which is true and there is no real way to find out.
Harassment of the geese is also taking its toll on what nature lovers can anticipate and/or understand as goose "normal" flying, mating and gosling-rearing patterns and behavior have been seriously disrupted and interfered with.
No one for example, could know what to "expect" when two parent geese whose eggs were addled back in April somehow managed for their eggs to hatch anyway.  According to experts, rain can sometimes wash off the oil or the mother goose might succeed in rolling the eggs sufficiently to remove the oil.
But, no one seemed to have answers on whether the hatched goslings might suffer birth defects or health compromises as result of having been deprived of oxygen for an unknown period of time while in the eggs.
Its been a "wait and see" game ever since the six goslings hatched at Prospect Park in early May.
But, it is a month later since the "miracle hatchings" and we know even less now than when the goslings were actually born.
Less than a week after the hatchings, two of the goslings vanished and presumably died.
Then, a couple of weeks later, a third gosling disappeared and is also assumed dead.
But, then last week, the whole family seemingly vanished!
Only to perhaps turn up in another location at Prospect Park with ONE gosling!
Is the same or a different family?
There is no way to know for sure.
If the parent geese with the one gosling are in fact, a different family, then what happened to the first family?
If it is the same family, then what happened to two of the three remaining goslings?
We are grappling with questions that, rather than having any answers at all, simply raise more questions.
The problem is, we are no longer dealing with "normal," but rather the new unnormal.
Under normal and natural circumstances, geese would rarely, if ever suffer an extermination of its entire native population in one area.  Nor, would they be subjected to daily harassment or have their eggs oiled.
But, at Prospect Park, the entire native population of geese was rounded up and destroyed last summer.
And the fact is, we don't know anything about the "new" geese who are at PP now.
We don't know where these new geese came from or whether they will stay.  We don't know their ages, sexes or their relationship (if any) to each other.  We don't know if the different groups and widely varying numbers of geese now at Prospect Park are extended families or just "random" geese who are popping into the park wily nilly or been chased to Prospect Park from somewhere else.
How can anyone understand or "predict" anything about the geese at Prospect Park now when we don't know even who they are or the very basics about them?
Moreover, while it is certainly not "normal" for a pair of mated Canada Geese to lose virtually all of their young a month after hatching, no one seems to have actual data or evidence on the possible effects of egg oiling on embryos who later hatch into live goslings.
(On this note, one has to ask why we are doing things like egg addling and harassment if we don't know and can't predict the later effects on species health and species behavior?)
While an argument can be made for non-lethal harassment and population control measures (such as egg addling) in small areas where there are large populations of geese, where is the merit of these arguments in large areas with small populations of geese?
The sad fact is, we have no idea what has been killing off the Prospect Park goslings over the past month or even worse, possibly the entire family.
Most disturbing of all in terms of the geese currently at Prospect Park, we don't know if they will be left in some kind of "peace" (highly unlikely), endlessly harassed or rounded up and gassed, like the native geese last year.
If our knowledge of goose health and behavior has been seemingly thrown out the window over the past year due to the "unnormal" events at Prospect Park, our trust of the powers that be has likewise, been compromised.
The new "normal" is in fact, the unnormal.
That is what happens when not just geese are annihilated, but also, public trust and faith in the system. 
We are in some ways, like a betrayed spouse, who, having been cheated upon and lied to, now suspect our partner even if s/he merely goes out for pizza.
Once destroyed in an instant, trust can be infinitely difficult to build up again -- especially when there has never been acknowledgement and sincere remorse for wrongdoing. 
As far as the exterminated geese at Prospect Park, we have gotten neither acknowledgement of wrongdoing nor apology -- even a year after the fact.
Instead, we and the geese have gotten harassment and been told we should be "grateful" for it.   (i.e. "Its either harassment or gassings.")
That is like a unfaithful spouse saying to his/her betrayed partner, "I won't go out and cheat behind your back anymore. I will instead, engage in Internet affairs and flaunt them in your face.  You should be grateful."
Grateful, indeed for pile-on.
And "pile on" is exactly what has occurred around the city with regard to our treatment of Canada geese.
These days, either harassment or round-ups and exterminations are occurring all over as our Mayor (Bloomberg) has publicly proclaimed that he wants the geese virtually eliminated from everywhere in New York City save perhaps the most southern tip of Manhattan.
Yesterday, I counted only TWO remaining geese, "Bozo and Bonnie" at Harlem Meer. That brings to 12, the TOTAL geese in all of Central Park right now.
Even park goers who are not normally "birders" are wondering and questioning, "What happened to all the geese who used to be in Central Park?  I don't see them anymore."  (A question posed to us the other day at the Animal Rights event.)
I can't answer that question, as despite my daily observances of Central Park wildlife, nothing is "normal" these days.
Are some of the "new" geese at Prospect Park those who were chased out of other locations, including Central Park?
It is certainly possible.
Were Central Park geese chased out to locations where they will be rounded up and gassed?
That is certainly possible, too.
Did the Central Park geese simply leave on their own to "molt" someplace they consider safer? -- A sometimes normal event under normal circumstances.
The problem is, we don't have "normal" anymore.
Once a species has been targeted for destruction, all "normal" goes out the window.
And once public trust has been breached by exterminations, lies and cover-ups that have occurred in the past, it is extremely difficult -- like Humpty Dumpty -- to put it back together again.
The new normal is the unnormal.  -- PCA

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