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For God So Loved The Saiga

Anna is a pastor, writer, and theologian who obtained her BA in religion in '06, Diploma of Ministry in '16, and Diploma of Divinity in '17.

"Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they give birth? The young crouch down and bring forth their young; their labor pains are ended. Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds.”
Job 39:1-4

God Delights In His Creation

How lucky are we that the God of all creation takes an interest in all He creates! In Genesis, God pronounced the wildlife “good.” In Luke 12:6, Jesus says that while five sparrows may be sold for two pennies, not a single one of them is forgotten by God. Animals that humans may deem “worthless” are of value to the one who created them. In Matthew 6:26 Jesus affirms that our Heavenly Father cares and provides for the birds. They don’t store food, but God still feeds them, a theme that is common throughout both testaments of the Bible. Psalm 104 tells us that the lions seek their food from God, while the final chapters in the Book of Job teaches that the animals bring God pleasure. He delights in watching the frolic and mourns their passing. God cares for all creation.

In wisdom you made them all, the Earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious... And the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. These all look to you, to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.

— Psalm 104:24-28

The tragedy of the Saiga

Since we know that God cares for his creation, we know that surely he mourned the lamentable fate of a large portion of antelopes in Central Asia nearly three years ago. Tragically, back in 2015, 200,000 Saiga antelopes in central Kazakhstan died over a three week period. Recently, Science Advances magazine published an article announcing why. Unfortunately, the Saiga are an endangered species. To lose that many was a devastating event which wiped out sixty percent of their overall population, putting them in grave danger. The culprit? A bacteria called Pasteurella multocida. Researchers were already aware of the presence of the bacteria, but now they suggest that environmental factors played a role in making it harmful. The effected antelope were dead within three hours of displaying their first symptoms.

The bacteria was present in the tonsils of all of the adult Saiga. Regrettably, unusually high temperatures mixed with higher than average humidity caused the bacteria to grow. This caused a blood poisoning called hemorrhagic septicemia, which had a grievously fatal effect on all antelope it effected. Only 30,000 of these beautiful creatures managed to escape the devastation. These lucky few managed to escape the epidemic because they happened to be further north at the time, away from the heat and humidity which triggered the reaction. Fortunately, the Saiga breed quickly, while they are already an endangered species, they can hopefully recover their population.

The Saiga are one of the more ancient animals to walk the planet, having shared a habitat with both saber toothed tigers and wooly mammoths. They are a hardy species, having endured harsh climates, and long treks as they roamed the land between the British Isles to Alaska. They survived predation, extreme weather conditions, changing landscapes, and the extinction events of other animals over their many, many thousands of years. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to survive poachers. In the nineteenth century, hunters decimated their population, bringing their number from millions to less than half a million. This is why the epidemic was so dangerous. Worse still, they’re not out of the woods. Another freak weather pattern can wipe the species off the face of the entire Earth. With the Earth’s climate changing, it makes it that much more likely that such an event would occur.

For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is mine.

— Psalm 50:10,11


Guardians of the Garden

In Genesis 1, God created the Earth, the wildlife, the plant life, and humans. In chapter 2 he showed man the Garden and instructed him to watch over it and care for it. As part of his duty as caretaker, God had man name all the animals. We were made in God’s image and our dominion was a responsibility over all the Earth. Unfortunately, mankind sinned against God and was banished, but he was never relieved of his duty. When we harm the Earth, we sin against God.

People naturally tend to love animals. Perhaps that is because God loves animals and we were made in His image. But we love animals with the same imperfect love with which we love everything else. God loves them with a perfect love, the same perfect love with which He loves us. We didn’t directly shoot and kill those 200,000 antelope back in 2015, though poachers are guilty of harming them before that. But we must always remember that our actions have consequences. We don’t live in a vacuum. Our actions can hurt other species of animals, and even other humans. When we don’t care for the environment, we’re guilty of breaking God’s command. And when we fail at our job, animals die. The Bible tells us that God mourns the animals, and so must we. “Be holy, as I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44)

Since the year 2,000, seventeen species have become extinct. In the history of the world, species come and go. Some because of our actions, others would have died out regardless. Either way, this is a tragedy. God created a beautiful world filled with wondrous variety and He declared that it was “very good.” He created animals with special gifts and talents; some soar high up in the heavens, others nimbly climb mountains, while still others dive and swim in the sea. He delights in all of His creation, and for those 200,000 Saiga, He weeps.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.

— Genesis 2:15

© 2018 Anna Watson

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