Is it possible to promote the idea of wildlife as a commodity that may be traded, controlled, hunted, subjected to untold cruel practices in the name of biomedical research and entertainment, yet simultaneously expect this practice to foster a respect for wildlife and the environment?
The sustainable use of wildlife can either be consumptive or non-consumptive:
The killing, trapping and capturing of wild animals for commerce (for ivory, the pet trade, biomedical research) or recreation (sport hunting, entertainment).
Non consumptive Use:
An activity that generates income without harming animals or removing them from their habitats.
The concept of sustainable use has been pushed as a sound wildlife management tool, yet in practice it has involved far more “use” and not much sustainability. History has shown that it generally results in the over-exploitation and decimation of the species involved.
Depletion of species used is almost always a forgone conclusion because of several factors, some being:
1.The short term financial interest and greed (human nature) of the users.
2.Inadequate scientific knowledge about wildlife populations
3.The inability to predict the outcome of our attempts to manage wild animals with any degree of accuracy.
These factors and results have almost – without exception – characterised past efforts at consumptive management and the commercial use of wildlife species.
EXAMPLES OF DAMAGED WILD POPULATIONS:
Wild species that are perceived to be in competition with agriculture and forestry are generally painted as healthy and plentiful in spite of the fact that their populations are not monitored. The reason for this is to keep the real damage done to these species hidden from the public so that agriculture can appear to be justified in persecuting them. In Southern Africa, “problem” species have historically been fatally injured and killed in exceptionally cruel ways – poison, gin traps, bow and arrows, dog hunting packs, barbed wire are some of many methods that have been used.
In the past, near Bloemhof about 200 kms west of Johannesburg, a small reserve named the SA Lombard Nature Reserve was in existence. At this reserve, captured predators were fed on meat laced with poisons, while conservation officials recorded the time taken by the animals to die. Dogs were bred (at taxpayers’ expense) to supply the dog-packs which hunted the land, killing our wildlife. Large scale barbaric cruelty was carried out, hidden from the tax payers who paid for it. Not much has changed since the days of the Oranjejag hunting club which exterminated 87,570 animals in the Free State alone.
The Wild Dog – once perceived to be a “problem animal” or “damage causing animal”, has been exterminated from large parts of Africa and is an example of how a species that is not monitored, is plagued by misconceptions and is encouraged to be persecuted by legislation and ignorance can become highly endangered due to the message of disrespect conveyed by the consumptive use camp. Today the Wild Dog is one of the continent’s most rarely encountered animals. Other Southern African species that suffer similar effects as perceived “problem animals”, are likely to go the same way unless there is change. The vervet monkey and chacma baboon are generally believed to be healthy due to that fact that they are “commonly” seen in certain areas but the damage caused to troop strcutures , and how this impacts on related ecosystems has not been taken into consideration. As a result those that work hands-on with these species report a dwindling in numbers and troop structure damage that has a ripple effect on future generations and all related systems.
Founded as the Botswana Wild Dog Research Project in 1989, the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT) has expanded to cover all the large carnivore species in Botswana. It is one of the longest running large predator research projects in Africa and one of only a handful of its caliber worldwide.
BPCT research on wild dogs has made it abundantly clear that the health and welfare of the entire predator population is a key indication of overall health of the ecosystem.
Preservationists and animal protectionists have begun to realise the importance of focussing not only on endangered species but on working towards a healthy biodiversity.
In his book Animals In Peril, ex chief executive, John Hoyt from the HSUS, says:
“Whales were supposedly sustainably exploited for decades under the careful scientific management regime of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) – until all eight species of great whales were pronounced endangered.
Sustainable use did not work with such developed North American resources such as grizzly bears, ducks, californian sardines, ancient forests, or just about anything else that has supposedly been managed, conserved, exploited , utilized or harvested on a sustained yield basis.
Not even white tailed deer which have thrived, can be considered an unmitigated management success. Creating and maintaining a “harvestable surplus” of deer has adversely affected other species, and has been achived by the removal of old growth forests and predators.”
The “Damage” Caused by Elephants Benefits Biodiversity:
A recent study showing environmental benefits conducted by elephants, that are often perceived to be environmentally damaging, illustrates how inadequate scientific knowledge about wildlife populations can be destructive to the environment: ”Areas heavily damaged by elephants are home to more species of amphibians and reptiles than areas where the beasts are excluded”, the study suggests.
The findings have been published in the African Journal of Ecology.
“Elephants, along with a number of other species, are considered to be ecological engineers because their activities modify the habitat in a way that affects many other species,” explained Bruce Schulte, now based at Western Kentucky University, US.
“They will do everything from digging with their front legs, pulling up grass to knocking down big trees. So they actually change the shape of the landscape.”
He added that elephants’ digestive system was not very good at processing many of the seeds that they eat.
“As the faeces are also a great fertiliser, the elephants are also able to rejuvenate the landscape by transporting seeds elsewhere,” Dr Schulte told BBC News.
In the paper, the scientists concluded that difference in abundance and species richness in the damaged areas was probably a result of engineering by elephants, generating new habitats for a diverse array of frog species.
Dr Schulte explained the team decided to carry out the study in order to identify effective indicator species that offered an insight into the health of the region’s environment.
He added that the findings had implications for habitat and wildlife management strategies.
“if we are managing habitat, then we clearly have to know what we are managing it for.
“What this study point towards is that although things may not look particularly pretty to a human eye does not necessarily mean that it is detrimental to all the life that is there.”