Conservation, Science

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

Communication, Conservation

The return of the ‘beast’?

We (Tanja and I) just published a new conservation conflict exploration on our Medium blog!

We asked three experts from the fields of Human Dimensions, Wildlife Research and Moral Philosophy to share their perspectives with us on a particular case study:

Germany relaxes rules on shooting wolves

“After a emotional debate pitting environmental against farming concerns, the government decided that wolves can now be shot if they cause “serious damage” to livestock farmers.

In cases of repeated attacks against sheep flocks or cattle herds, individuals can be hunted down even if it is unclear which animal in a pack was responsible.”

We asked the experts:

  1. Why do people struggle so much with the return of wolves?
  2. Should killing of wolves in Germany be allowed/legal?
  3. What would be the best first step(s) to address this conflict in Germany or other countries in similar situations?

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

Photo credits: Jana Malin; mythos-wolf.de

Conservation, Science

New publication: Effectiveness of animal conditioning interventions

Our systematic map protocol, outlining the background and methods of our approach to map and review the effectiveness of animal conditioning interventions in reducing human-wildlife conflict, is now online.

SysMap_print

This map is part of a special initiative of a team of behavioural ecologists, who all committed to systematically map and/or review a topic in conservation behaviour. Read more about our plans and the protocols of the other team members here.

SysMap_print2

 

Reference
Snijders L, Greggor A.L., Hilderink F., Doran C. (2019) Effectiveness of animal conditioning interventions in reducing human-wildlife conflict: a systematic map protocol. Environmental Evidence 8: 1-10
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13750-019-0153-7

Communication, Conservation

Culling hyenas to save horses

We (Tanja and I) just published our very first conservation conflict exploration on our Medium blog!

We asked three experts from the fields of Human Dimensions, Wildlife Research and Moral Philosophy to share their perspectives with us on a particular case study:

Namibia starts controversial hyena cull to save its wild horses

“Shooting hyenas to save wild horses raises heated debate about whether conservation authorities should intervene between endemic wildlife and ‘feral’ animals.”

Please follow this link for more details.

namibia-2049221_1920_PixaBay
Namib desert horses (Equus ferus caballus)

We asked the experts:

  1. What approach would you recommend decision-makers to take to best address this conflict?
  2. Why this approach (e.g. which processes, perspectives or values should be prioritized in your view)?
  3. What should be the first step?

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

Photo credits: Hyena Project – Oliver Höner; Pixabay

 

Communication, Conservation, Science

Exploring Conservation Conflicts

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge” – Thomas Berger –

Tanja Straka and I like asking questions. Even more so, we like animals, nature and people. Unfortunately, these three do not always mix well and we want to learn why.

Coming from our respective backgrounds in social sciences and animal sciences, we want to learn about the ins and outs of wildlife conservation conflicts by exploring different perspectives. Because we are convinced that understanding the diverse aspects of conservation conflicts could also open our minds to a diversity of (new) ways to address them.

With that in mind, we are keen to explore Conservation Biology and Animal Behaviour (Ethology), Moral Philosophy (Ethics) and the Human Dimensions of Wildlife (Social Sciences) and their perspectives on real-life conservation conflict situations.

In a blog on Medium (and on Twitter), we would like to share the different viewpoints we encounter in our daily lives and work and to invite people to share their perspectives.

Connect to us and let’s explore together!

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