絶滅してしまうはかない理由 リョコウバト ドキュメンタリーと考察

リョコウバト(passenger pigeon)はかつて鳥類の中でももっとも多くいたと言われ北アメリカ大陸を5大湖やニューヨークからメキシコ湾まで渡りあるくよく見かける渡り鳥だった。

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昔は50億羽も棲息したとされその巨大な群れが地平線が広がる北米の大地の空を真っ暗に覆い尽くすほどだった。スタミナがあり飛ぶ速度も時速100キロ近くまでも及んだと言う。2

 

生息地もスケールの大きな群生をすることで知られ、ウィスコンシン州やケンタッキー州では億単位で住むリョコウバトの巣が確認されていた。

それほどまで勢いのよかった生命力に溢れるリョコウバトはなぜ絶滅してしまったのか。

記録は語っている。

 

ーーリョコウバトの肉はとてもおいしく高い値段でよく売れた。そのため人々が猟銃や棒で我先に捕獲した。

 

ーーニワトリのように手間が要らず簡単に手に入った。2

ーー19世紀に北米の人口が急増したため食肉用と羽根布団用の羽毛の需要が殺到していた。おりしもそのころ電報の発明があり情報が速く伝わるようになった。ハトの居場所の情報が効率的に伝達可能になり無制限な乱獲が行われた。

 

ーー何千もの狩猟者が列車にのり、ハトの居住地へこぞって捕獲に出かけていた。リョコウバトがいるとなれば人はどこにでも出かけて行った。

 

ーー鉄砲によっておびただしく撃ち取られ、その場で羽根をむしりとられ、塩漬けの樽に詰め込まれた。

 

ーー大陸横断鉄道の開通でハトの乱獲は加速を増し、数十年でリョコウバトの数は激減した。

 

ーー1860年の鉄道の輸送記録ではリョコウバトの塩漬けの樽が588個、頭数は23万5200羽と書かれている。

 

ーーリョコウバトは棲息数とは裏腹に繁殖能力の弱い鳥類で、しかも小さい集団では繁殖できず、繁殖期は年にたった一回、しかも1回の産卵数はたった一個であった。

 

ーーいったん大きく減った個体数を回復させることは困難だっただけでなく、19世紀にはいって拍車がかかった開拓が,彼らの生息地である森林をとりあげ、どんどん住めなくして行った。

 

ーー1906年ハンターに撃ち殺されたものが最後の野生のリョコウバトだった。飼育されていたものも1910年オハイオ州シンシナティ動物園のメスのマーサのみとなったがマーサも亡くなってしまい種は絶滅したとされる。3

マーサ

 

 

リョコウバトが絶滅したのは簡単に言えば人間が自分の都合で乱獲をし、その上、開拓と称して彼らの生息地までも取り上げてしまった結果だ。

 

いまや知識と情報、テクノロジーという最強の装備を身につけた人類は意志一つで簡単に他の生物の種を丸ごと抹殺できる力を持ってしまった。つぎつぎに絶滅する、地球をシェアしている他の生物たちは何も言わず。彼方に消えて行くだけだ。

「愛していたのに」といい人はそれを泣き叫ぶが。

 

リョコウバトは人間がそのような”愚かなフリ”をやめていたら生き続けられたかもしれないのだ。

 

***********

 

クローン技術が発展し、ゲノムからまた絶滅した種を再生させようという試みがなされている。

これが「進化」というものなのか?

 

そうすると人間に過ちは無かったことになるのか?

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