More than half a million people attended a wildlife exhibition in Georgia last weekend, but the spectacle was a reminder of the challenge that lies ahead as we confront the worst drought in more than half the United States.
The show, which saw some 1,000 deer and turkeys competing for a prize of $100,000, was staged in the town of Chestatee, just a few miles from the Mississippi River, which has seen record-breaking drought conditions and a population collapse.
But the animals’ plight has become a hot topic around the state and in Congress.
Some wildlife groups and politicians are now calling for a new law that would ban wild animal exhibitions in the state, citing the risk of a “terrifying and potentially lethal” outbreak of wild turkey disease.
“We have a situation where deer and other wildlife have to go into quarantine, and the quarantine is the only way to control the disease,” Georgia State Senator Michael Hill said.
“If it were a zoo, they would be able to operate there.”
A federal agency in Texas recently ordered its employees to avoid the state if they plan to participate in an animal show.
And a new bill in the Texas legislature would ban the state from providing any more state funds to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which manages the park and reserves it for the endangered species.
“It’s very clear the public needs to be aware of the disease that’s going on,” Ms Bell said.
“They need to know about it.”
What we’ve seen is the state has been a great public servant and has been protecting wild animals and wild birds and wild places for many years,” she said.
Ms Bell said the state’s wildlife is protected under federal law.”
When a wild animal is taken away from its habitat and the species that it lives in is not there, there’s a real possibility that the disease is going to spread,” she told ABC News.”
That is something that is really disturbing and scary.
“The state’s tourism and hunting industries are also struggling with the crisis, and many people are also worried about their future.”
They’re in a great situation because they’ve been able to survive the drought,” Ms Wilson said.”[But] you know, when you’re trying to sell yourself in a crisis, it’s not easy.”ABC/wires