Dragon Protection

As most people now know, our dragon population has declined precipitously in recent years. Not only have dragons been excluded from all 'nice" neighborhoods and driven out of most states, but they are hated almost everywhere.  In spite of the fact that federal law now protects dragons, most people are woefully ignorant of the importance of dragons in maintaining stable worldwide ecosystems, and of the values inherent in protecting the faunal diversity represented by dragons.

Fortunately, ever since the passage of the Endangered Species Act of 1972, dragons have received federal protection in the United States, and the fines for killing dragons are now almost as severe as those associated with unlawful picketing of federal agencies. However, one serious loophole in the law exists Because of lobbying pressures from egg collectors, dragon eggs are not yet provided with any protection. Egg collectors lure the dragoness from her weyr with jellybeans (of which dragons are inordinately fond) while a confederate enters the weyr and steals the eggs. Dragon eggs are the most beautiful and valuable of all eggs, and on the black market often fetch ten thousand dollars or more, especially for the later and more golden stages. This obviously places the activities of egg collectors on a collision course with conservationists. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to tell a newly fertilized dragon egg from an infertile one, and the latter certainly does not warrant protection in the view of either group. Yet, a few weeks after incubation, a simple test will distinguish fertilized from infertile eggs, the eggs can be submerged in water. Fertilized eggs will quickly rise to the surface, since the air chamber in the egg that surrounds the embryo reduces its specific gravity. Infertile eggs sink to the bottom and remain there. Few egg collectors are willing to make this test when they enter a dragon's weyr, for obvious reasons. Of course, the concerns and well being of the mother dragon have never been taken into account by legislators trying to decide whether all dragon eggs should be protected.

The conservation of adult dragons is quite another question, and here nearly all biologists take the position that a series of refuges are needed in the ranges of all species if dragons are to survive. Areas that have been proposed as International Dragon Sanctuaries include Loch Ness in Scotland and Lake Okanagan in British Columbia for the protection of the lake dragon. 

The vicinity of Mount Fiji, and the streams and lakes at its base would be set aside for the protection of the Oriental flightless dragon. The entire Yucatan Peninsula and the Caribbean, from Cuba northward would be reserved as a sanctuary for the American flightless Dragon. The European fire breathing dragon is now so rare that nobody has been able to suggest a specific sanctuary, but the mountain ranges of northern Italy and the higher peaks of Greece are likely areas for consideration. The best sanctuary for the flying dragons of Asia would probably be the mountains of the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Koryak and Cydan ranges of the adjoining portions of Siberia. Political problems make it impossible to know to what extent protection is now being afforded dragons in this region. In North Korea, the flying dragon has been proposed as National Monument Number 475, and to disturb or kill one is punishable by death. This is harsh justice indeed, but the Koreans are to be commended for their special efforts to protect the flocks of flying dragons that still breed in their country.

NATIONAL DRAGON
SLAYER'SASSOCIATION

Apart from the collection of dragon eggs, the only other major threat to the American dragon population at this time results from the lobbying efforts of a group calling themselves the National Dragon Slayers' Association. This group, formed before dragons came under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, consists primarily of persons who have actively hunted dragons in the past and would like to continue to do so without restriction. 

The association's membership requirements stipulate only that the applicant be an American citizen, preferably with an abiding hatred of dragons, devoted to the position that all Americans should have the right to bear arms suitable for the slaying of dragons, up to and including small tactical nuclear devices.

The group would also like to abolish all existing dragon sanctuaries and prevent the possible registration of all dragon-killing weapons. Their official position is that America must be kept well armed and prepared for any possible dragon attack. Although the position of the Dragon Slayer's Association seems somewhat extreme, the wealth and political power of this group cannot be underestimated. Already efforts are being made, thanks to the association's lobby, to exempt dragons from protection in particular areas through special legislation. Thus, dragons are no longer protected in many national forests. Their status in national parks has also been threatened because they compete with the beavers, deer, and other large, attractive animals tourists are most interested in seeing. Indeed, in a few national parks, dragons have been accused of carrying off and eating campers, when marauding bears were actually responsible. Thus there is considerable danger that some of the parks in the western mountain states, where the remnant American dragon populations are concentrated, may soon be opened to dragon hunting and the unlimited collection of dragon eggs. The Secretary of the Environment has recently taken the position that since the Bible specifically identifies dragons as evil creatures and associates them with the end of the world, it is senseless to protect dragons in national parks and thus perhaps inadvertently help to bring on the apocalypse.

On the other hand, dragons have received considerable support recently from the activities of a group calling itself the Dragon Lovers Association. These few enlightened individuals are not only lobbying for greater protection of the dragons and their eggs, but many of them are adopting dragons and providing them with loving homes. 

A third group, Dragons Unlimited is also giving considerable support to dragon protection, but are against dragon adoption and despise the people who are bringing dragons into human society. This group consists primarily of the well to do people that hunted dragons for sport when it was still legal. These people now have devoted themselves to the restoration of dragon populations, in hopes that legal hunting seasons might be reestablished sometime in the future. Generous private donations, as well as membership fees, are being used to purchase and restore prime dragon-breeding habitats in Mexico, Canada, and the United States. In spite of the unfortunate long-range goal of the group, their efforts toward the conservation of dragon habitats must certainly be applauded.

There is a bill before congress, for funding the breeding of wild dragons and then returning their offspring into the wild, similar to the vulture-breeding program. There is some controversy as to whether this plan would work with dragons. Wild dragons have never been successfully brought into captivity; it is not known whether they could or would ever adjust to such conditions. Some biologists have suggested taking a few eggs from the wild population and rearing the hatchlings under foster parents, such as vultures. Other scientists have suggested that keepers in dragon costume care for the dragonlings, so that the humans do not "imprint" unnatural parental stimuli on the young dragons. These dragon-parent surrogates would also have the responsibility for teaching the dragonlings the basics of draconian culture and providing them with religious training, including belief in a Supreme Dragon.

Total dragon populations are impossible to judge at this point. It has been estimated, for example, that the American flightless dragon may now number no more than about twenty individuals. Some of these dragons are probably too old and others too young to breed, so it is possible that only a dozen breeding dragons of this type still exist. We must be thankful for their long life spans, but since they lay only a few eggs each year, and egg collectors steal many of these, the long-term outlook for the species is grim.

 The only good dragon is a dead dragon.

Attributed to General George Custer



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