Communication, Conservation

Exploring Conservation Conflicts: New format

For our Exploring Conservation Conflicts blog, we are trying out a new format: personal contributions. We already got two wonderful personal stories tackling very different but important questions in conservation. Check them out!

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges humans have ever faced. This exploration is a personal account of the role that climate change plays in the daily life of researcher Dr Yann Gager. Yann explains to us what individual researchers can (and should?) do to help the fight against climate change. Read more

flatten the curveIn conservation, often a choice has to be made for the lesser of two evils. How can conservationists cope with such situations of seemingly inevitable loss? Here, we share a personal contribution from Dr Chelsea Batavia, in which she takes us along in the background story of her recent publication The moral residue of conservation, addressing exactly this issue. Read more

Science

New publication: Don’t forget about your friends

Remember those friends you never see anymore after they got hitched? Not in geese!

In our recently published paper, we show that barnacle geese keep hanging out with there favourite early-life social companions also after they pair up. Females show a break during the breeding season but display their social preferences again in the following winter. Males keep their prefered companions throughout the breeding and wintering season and these companionships were predicted by familiarity and genetic relatedness.

We also show that especially males were aggressive during the breeding season towards both males and females and this possibly hampered their female partners to hang out with their own ‘friends’ during breeding but not winter.

In summary, our study reveals the robustness of social preferences formed early in life, carrying over across pair formation, even after extended temporal disruptions. Our findings thus highlight how the early-life social environment can have life-long consequences on individuals’ social life, even in monogamous species.

Reference
RHJM Kurvers, L Prox, DR Farine, C Jongeling, L Snijders (2019)
Animal Behaviour 164: 25-37
Also as a preprint on BioRxiv 

 

Conservation, Science

Green vs Green dilemma

Tanja and I recently published our fifth Conservation Conflict Exploration. We asked experts from a wildlife ecology and a human dimensions background to share their perspectives on wind turbines and wildlife with us.

The development of wind turbines in Germany is a controversial topic. While wind turbines promise to contribute to climate conservation goals in this century, the ongoing negative impact of wind turbines on airborne wildlife such as bats and birds is undeniable. Hence, the situation around wind turbines is labelled by some as a green versus green dilemma. In this exploration, we asked two experts, Marcus Fritze, a wildlife biologist, and Sophia Kochalski, a conservation social scientist, the following three questions:

  • In your own words, could you briefly describe the situation to us?
  • Why do you think is it so difficult to find consensus among stakeholders?
  • Considering your expertise, what could be one approach to mitigate this conflict?
MF_WKA_RBB
Marcus Fritze (c) RBB

I think that it is possible to run wind turbines bird- and bat-friendly and economically acceptable at the same time. The difficulty is greed. – Marcus Fritze

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Sophia Kochalski

Compromises can be made by both sides when planning wind farms. – Sophia Kochalski

Interested in how these expert’s views on this ‘wicked problem’ and their solutions? Then check out the blog post here. And while you’re at it, have a look at our twitter account.

Conservation, Science

New publication: Elephant rewilding

Recently, I received the honourable request to comment on an article about the rewilding of captive Asian elephants. It’s not a topic I am very familiar with, so writing this commentary actually became a wonderful learning experience for me.

Several strong commentaries from cultural, ethical and psychological perspectives were already written. Here I tried to also add a relevant ecological & evolutionary perspective, focussing on the behavioural ecology of Asian elephants and their functional role in the ecosystem.

Abstract: Baker & Winkler make a thought-provoking contribution to the discussion of what role captive animals could play in nature conservation and how we could get there through rewilding. There certainly is potential for captive Asian elephants, Elephas maximus, to become targets of conservation efforts, but there are also many questions: (1) How much do (behavioural) traits of captive-origin animals differ from their free conspecifics? (2) What predicts the likelihood and strength of social reintegration of captive animals into free populations? (3) How much of an Asian elephant’s functional role in the environment can captive animals still fulfil and how may this influence the evolutionary dynamics of Asian elephant populations? These questions are challenging, but also an opportunity to gain crucial knowledge and insight into the elephant’s ecological role, as well as our own.

If you are interested in reading the complete commentary (approx. 1000 words) see here.

Reference
Snijders L (2020) Ecological and evolutionary dynamics of elephant rewilding. Animal Sentience 28(6): 1-4.

Communication, Conservation, Science

The case of cats and conservation

Tanja and I explored another conservation conflict on our Medium blog.

When a potential response to an urgent situation is either unlikely to work at all or unlikely to address the bulk of the problem, under what conditions should we try it anyway?

In this exploration, we wanted to share perspectives on the controversial case of cats in Australia, also by some called the ‘war against cats’. In 2015, the Australian Government launched the threatened species strategy to kill 2 Mio cats in Australia by 2020 with the aim to protect endemic wildlife. Four years after the strategy was launched, Australian researchers in Conservation Letters questioned the motives (conservation or politically driven) and the science behind the decision.

Just how much of a sensitive topic this particular case study is, we noticed by how difficult it was for us to find contributors. Luckily we found two experts from Moral Philosophy that shared their insight with us:

Carlos Gray Santana is an Assistant Professor in Philosophy at the University of Utah. Dr Santana’s uses ethics to shed light on complicated issues such as the environment and human cognition. William S. Lynn is a Research Scientist in the George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University. The focus of Bill’s work is the ethics and politics of animal protection and sustainability.

For optional guidance, we asked the experts the following questions:

  • Why is the matter of cats and wildlife so controversial?
  • Why do you think politicians focus on culling cats rather than on habitat loss (as suggested in Doherty et al. 2019) and could open discussions be fostered to move beyond culling?
  • How do you think the public would respond when culling of cats turns out not to be effective in halting endemic species decline?

Curious about what they had to say? Read our blog post here.
And you can also follow us on Twitter!

Photo credits: Pacto Visual on Unsplash