If a Cornell University researcher has his way, cheetahs, lions, elephants, camels and other large wild animals may soon roam parts of North America. But wait, you may say, cheetahs, lions and elephants aren’t native to the US! But their ancient ANCESTORS were, so there’s no reason these animals can’t live here again.

“If we only have 10 minutes to present this idea, people think we’re nuts,” says biologist Harry Greene. “But if people hear the one-hour version, they realize they haven’t thought about this as much as we have.” He points out that these species are dying out rapidly in their native homes, especially in Africa. This may be our only chance to save them.

Greene’s plan, called Pleistocene rewilding, would establish vast parks with large mammals, mostly from Africa, that are close relatives of the extinct Pleistocene-period animals that once roamed the Great Plains. In Africa, most wild animals already live in game parks. The days when you could hop into a jeep and be guided through the jungle on an animal hunting or photographing tour are almost over.

There will be complaints from ranchers, farmers and suburban land owners, just as there were when wolves were relocated to the wild. Despite the fact that, unlike wolves, these animals will be fenced-in, there’s always the chance they will escape and kill someone’s pets or chickens. However, the game parks will probably become popular public drive-throughs, bringing new cash to the areas where they are set up. If you?re able to spot a lion or tiger from the safety of your car, it will be an experience you’ll never forget.

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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