You know what, I'll say it. There's nothing wrong with a good listicle. I've been harsh on the format in the past for sure, but those were just cheap shots, safe jokes to fill space, and I'm better than that now. Why should I kowtow to the seething masses and their venomous takes on millennial culture? Why should I be forced to accept the narrow-minded boomer understanding of what a good article looks like? What if I just want to unwind and allow an otherwise untalented 27-year old hipster with three BAs bombard me with several nouns strung together by a loosely established titular premise so that I can indulge in a series of quick, inoffensive parasocial confirmations of shared human experience in order to cope with my otherwise meaningless existence?
I think there's nothing wrong with that. Brave, I know, but someone had to come out and say it. No need to thank me, just doing what I do best: defending the honour of the poor, the broken, and the oppressed. Defending those who do not have the voice to defend themselves. It's hard work, and some days I barely have the strength to keep going, but at the end of the day, when I come across a stranger who feels safe enough to pull up a HuffPost link on the bus, or when I hear about some poor sap who finally had the courage to tap on that BuzzFeed link in they've been eyeing, I'll know it was worth it. It was all worth it.
Check out this Sans Serif abomination I found on Google Images
That feeling is why I put myself out there and do this stuff. It definitely has nothing to do with the fact that I can't figure out how to format this article and deadline is coming at me like it's prostate and/or ball cancer and I just turned 50 -- fast. Yeah, I don't know, if you thought that was bad you should read the versions of that joke that I cut. Anyway, this article is actually a listicle in disguise, is the point I was making, sorry. But like, it's a listicle in a postironic way, okay, I'm actually subverting the mainstream backlash against Buzzfeed and the new media wave of the early 2010s by hearkening back to blogging's roots. If you think about it in terms of semiotics, the hyper-structured formulisms of my piece actually arrange into a pretty enlightened critique of the way society projects praise for innovation, but simultaneously works to quash successful metamorphoses of boundary and informational space.
What the fuck am I talking about? Who knows! What does it have to do with the actual article? Shit all! But without further ado, and for your reading pleasure, here are five times humans let animals get waaay out of control:
Number one: Pablo Escobar's Hippos
Check out these hippos I found on Google Images
We're starting the list off strong because it's the story that got me on this beat in the first place (only because VICE reposted it onto my Instagram feed like five times last week, but still). Probably the largest invasive species to ever invade anything, at least post-Mesozoic, the hundred-ish hippopotami that now populate the Magdalena river in Colombia are all descended from four hippos belonging to Pablo Escobar, the notorious cartel kingpin, because of course they are.
Invasive species all have two things in common: they always arrive at their new conquest due to human activity (barring a really strong gust of wind, I guess), and they always cause shit for the local ecosystem. It just so happens that in this case, the human in question is one of the most infamous gang leaders in modern history, and the shit in question is literally hippo shit, which is toxic.
I'm gonna be honest, I know the hippos are up to some really worrying shenanigans like threatening local river fauna, altering the chemistry of Colombia's largest river, and even literally altering the terrain around them with their mass, but I can't help but love everything about this story. And the best (or, more scientifically, worst) part about it is that Colombian officials have no idea what to do about it. This will be a recurring theme throughout the article, by the way.
The hippos pose an imminent threat to Colombia's ecosystem, and though authorities insist no humans have come to harm from their occupation, the fuckers are huge and scary and are known to be territorial, so as their numbers balloon over the years, so too do the odds of some kind of incident occurring. That said, Colombian officials have also been quick to point out that neutering the massive beasts is both difficult and expensive, and the alternative, slaughter, isn't going to go down well with the public. At least it didn't when the military killed one of them in 2009. According to VICE, he was named Pepe. Rest in power, king. Regardless the hippos are there to stay, at least for a little while, so it looks like Escobar managed to send one last giant pachydermal postmortum poetic 'fuck you' to the Colombian government. Nice.
Number two: Brazil's Cat Island
Cats on the island of the cats
If you've been paying attention, you should probably already know how bad Covid has been for Brazil. Among other things, there is a housing crisis and a hunger crisis that weren't there before, and there are over 450,000 people who were there before, but now aren't. It's awful for innumerable reasons, but one of those is that people have been forced to abandon their pets in droves. Some pet shelters have reported people bringing in abandoned cats by the truckload, and when they're turned away, the cat people leave the shelters with ominous warnings about their passengers' futures: they'll go to the island.
Ilha Furtada is an otherwise unremarkable island off the coast of Brazil (obviously). It's better known to locals, however, as 'Ilha del los Gatos,' or 'Island of the Cats.' Compared to the last entry, Ilha de los Gatos' origin story is pretty tame. Legend has it that a couple decades ago, one ambitious couple tried to set up a life on the small uninhabited island, one of many along the so-called Green Coast. The venture didn't pan out, and when the fabled couple eventually admitted defeat and set out for the mainland, they left behind at least two cats. Now, there are much more than two cats. Life is a magical thing.
Now, this cat takeover doesn't necessarily present a threat to the environment, at least on a scale remotely similar to the hippos, but I think it's interesting because their prosperity on this island relied on a brand new, entirely spontaneous, and more than a little janky ecosystem that quickly evolved out of local culture as stories about the unusual feline density spread. The cats could barely scavenge for enough food and water on their own, and so they began to rely on tourists and local fishermen for handouts, scraps, and in some cases shelter or homemade feeders.
That fragile partnership collapsed in the pandemic. Living conditions deteriorated on the island as tourism shut down and fewer and fewer humans made the trip out for humanitarian aid. Then, as attention turned to the sharp increase in cat emigration and the lack of food and water on Ilha de los Gatos, local politics began to further split the community's aid efforts, with some arguing that improving the living conditions on the island would encourage more people to ditch their cats there, an act that's already illegal, while others say that the animals deserve to be rescued, or at least to not have to eat each other, which I feel like is hard to argue with. So, once again, officials have no idea what to do.
By the way, the first argument sounds like the same shit people say when they try cut funding for safe injection sites. Like some kid is going to walk past a tent filled with only the most horribly addicted and downtrodden people in our society and think "Hey, heroin doesn't seem so bad after all! They have their very own tent! Maybe I should give it a try!" Anyway, just something I've been thinking about. Have I mentioned that Doug Ford sucks on this site before at any point, I can't remember.
Basically, you shouldn't abandon your cats on a deserted island, but if you do, you definitely shouldn't let them suffer in squalor once they take over the whole fucking thing. Life lessons baby, that's what I'm here for.
Number three: Hawaii's Mongoose problem
Mongoose in Hawaii
The first article I ever published was about how the province of Alberta has no rats (hint hint, nudge nudge), but did you know that the state of Hawaii has no squirrels. Lots of people think this is bullshit, because they see these little brown furry things scurrying around all over the place when they go to visit, but nope, no squirrels. They just don't fuck with the island life, I guess. Instead, Hawaii has these little fuckers: mongooses. These vicious weasel-adjacent mammals are native to India, but were introduced in the 19th century by sugar farmers in order to control, as it turns out, rats. Should've taken a page out of Alberta's book and just gassed the place while you had a chance Hawaii, just saying.
Cause now, the mongooses, which have basically no natural predators on the islands, are the problem. They prey on all sorts of small animals that are native to Hawaii, which has a unique ecosystem. Included among the mongooses' most sadistic snacks are the eggs of endangered sea turtles, as well as native ground-nesting birds, according to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council website. The Pacific Ocean state has a unique ecosystem and it faces unique challenges when protecting it, especially since, as a part of the US, adjusting to globalism is pretty much mandatory.
This example starts to diverge from the pattern slightly, simply because the government actually has some semblance of a plan for how to deal with this out of control population including a system of fines and permits, but that fact should also give you an idea of how long-lasting the effects of introduced species can be. These guys got to Hawaii like 200 years ago, and they're still dealing with the effects today, so even though some of these stories are kind of funny, definitely don't lose sight of how devastating their potential is.
Number four: Australia's frog thing
Cane Toad in Australia
When it comes to fucking up your ecosystem by introducing new species, no country in the world has more experience than Australia. For the showcase, I picked cane toads because that's the example I've heard most often and also I like frogs, but there are like five or six other species that have also had their populations explode after they were introduced onto a continent with basically no predators and plenty of space to fuck. The cane toads were brought in by those pesky sugar industry folks again, as if those guys didn't cause enough shit with all the people they stole from Africa.
Anyway, the story looks a lot like the other ones I've told you (I'm starting to remember why I don't like listicles again), but in 1935, about 100 or so of the toads, which are native to Central/South America, were brought in to eat some beetles that were fucking up the sugar crops. The toads ate like kings and nobody ate the toads, and one thing led to another, they all fucked, and now there's a quadrillion of them. Classic.
The main problem with the toads is their sheer number, they're legit everywhere, seriously go YouTube some shit on it. But there's of course the classic ecological effects, poisoning predators, eating all the insects, and even sometimes poisoning humans or their pets. One interesting tidbit, however, is that they hunt dung beetles by hiding in cow shit and waiting for them. Isn't that some insane psychopath nonsense? It sounds like stories you'd hear about WW1 soldiers who cracked after witnessing so much death that they became absolute killing machines and they'd go to crazy lengths to get the job done. That's how I think of these frogs. There's so much killing that they don't even care how it gets done, they'll farm beetles from within cow patties if that's what it takes. Crazy motherfuckers.
Number five: Japan's Bunny Island
Bunnies on Bunny Island
There's nothing bad about this one actually, this is fine. There can be nothing wrong with this. This is heaven on earth.
Okay, fine I'll say something sarcastic about it. Okunoshima is a small Island in Japan that was erased from maps briefly in the 50s while it was being used to develop chemical weapons. It's one of many islands in Japan that are home to large populations of one animal. For example, Japan has its own cat islands (less tragic than Brazil's though), as well as a fox island. And Wes Anderson has a dog island. Stupid joke. Anyway yeah, Okunoshima was a secret chemical weapons testing facility, where they tested on, you guessed it, bunnies.
Now, the government swears all the test bunnies were euthanized, and the bunnies that have taken over in the present are descended from some ceremonial rabbits that were released by schoolchildren to celebrate the opening of a park. I'm not buying it and I'm holding out for a mutant rabbit takeover of Japan, but we'll see what happens. I just think it's cool that the government gave the island back to the bunnies after committing mass atrocities against their people. See, reparations aren't that difficult guys, take a hint Canada. And also like every other Western country. Get it together.
Written by: Colman Brown