The lost meaning of “Conservation”
As a conservationist, we are deemed to conserve and protect wildlife and the environment and find the best practice management which benefits the biodiversity and landscape/marine environment.
What is it about certain wildlife authorities or people working with animals that makes them want to do the very opposite of conservation?
For example: Take a wild creature, a carnivore – whether that be a Cheetah, Lion, Tiger, Crocodile, etc. If the Apex predator has a low amount of wild prey species, they move closer to farming areas because of the livestock, because they have no food, because they are survival specialists. What do people do automatically? They get scared and call an authority and want the carnivore removed from the location.
On a lot of occasions, the “authorities” are slow to move. What is urgent for the frightened people/villagers/farmers does not hold the same urgency to some “authorities”. So, on a lot of occasions human/animal conflict occurs, resulting in many avoidable deaths of the creature, and sadly sometimes a human.
I should really clarify and say, to me its totally avoidable. But in order for it to be avoidable measures must be put in place, wildlife authorities must do their job.
If true conservationist efforts are to be in place, the understanding of the animals/prey/habitat of the area are vital. For carnivores to survive, an ongoing supply of their prey species is needed along with large tracts of habitat to move in and a water supply. Just like we humans, the basic survival tools of the creatures is water, food, shelter (fire also for humans). Wildlife authorities and/or wildlife personal from organizations working in the carnivores environment should be including into their conservation management a prey species monitoring program. Many say they do, but many don’t get out on the ground and do it. Field work can be very arduous, but its vital. When the number of prey species are not known in a carnivore’s habitat, a very very dangerous situation occurs.
A good example of this is as follows – There is a situation occurring in the Simpali Tiger Reserve in India, where prey species numbers are so seriously low that there is imminent danger for villagers/humans in that area. The reason, the tigers, leopards, carnivores etc are survival specialists extraordinaire, they will hunt and will do everything to survive. If people are the only abundant living being in the area, then they become a prey target.
Horrific, yes and no, yes because of the possible human loss, but no because this is the natural genetically inbuilt functioning and survival techniques that these creatures are born with.
The blazing question arises how did these prey species get so low and have nothing done about it? That comes down to incorrect environmental and wildlife management. Those deemed to look after natural areas, particularly with carnivores and critically endangered/protected species have failed at their job, their conservation job.
The scenario in Simpali is not an isolated case of questionable monitoring and management, this is a situation that can be identified in areas of the carnivores range states around the world.
If a carnivore attacks they are labelled a man eater. The true man-eater is extremely rare. Historically, every true man-eater has been either injured so they cannot hunt large prey, or they are sick, or they have lost their prey species and are starving to death. Basically, they have no options but hunt the weakest prey on earth – humans. There are a couple of occassions where a carnivore has deliberately targeted humans even though prey was around. That is another long story.
Take the humans weapons away, and we are sitting ducks. We are not the highest member of the food chain naturally, they are. But we humans have found ways to destroy them and rule them. Of course we must protect ourselves, but one of the best protective measures we can take is to ensure the predators have the habitat, space and prey they need.
Conservation from the public and professionals
Although most of the general public are not in positions of official wildlife/environmental protection, we are all still the keepers of our earth and we must ethically live with our earths creatures, not annihilate them. But when you are officially in a position where you are deemed to protect wildlife/environment then it is your dedicated duty to do so. If you do not carry out your duties, it should be a crime and those people should be removed from their positions and replaced with qualified dedicated personal.
Another area of great concern for our creatures are people who consistently promote and seemingly focus on taking animals captive and state they doing it for “conservation”. There will always be animals in captivity (in official breeding programs and zoo’s etc) and it is also our job, the public and the captive carers/owners to ensure that these animals are cared for correctly with qualified personal, providing good husbandry and care. There are standards that are law in most countries around the world which define the provisions that is needed for any captive animal. Many places do not reach these standards, and sadly in some cases there is no one with enough drive to address it.
The Cuddle Photo opportunity animals
Then there’s the people who seem to collect animals to be used for cuddle photos for tourism and state they are doing it for education and conservation. These people need a kick up the backside or a good wake up call of some kind to remind them of the true meaning of the word conservation and education.
Simply, you don’t teach and educate the public to cuddle carnivores or promote it as healthy, full stop. That is EXTREMELY irresponsible. It is teaching people to think its ok to behave badly, think incorrectly and not have the proper respect for these creatures. If I had my way I would address every single place conducting themselves like this and breach them on Occupational Health and Safety and Public Endangerment. What is so hard to understand about teeth, claws, carnivore etc.
From the animals view point, it is an arduous, exhausting, irritating and stressful task to entertain the humans. One such person claims that there is a Cheetah that they cart around to various venues for display and public patting sessions etc who “purrs and really loves it”. Really??. Cheetahs do purr when they are content, however they and other members of the cat family purr when they are frightened, scared, tense, “want to get out of there” etc. These people claiming this are stating “Extreme Anthropomorphic” terms in addition to placing their very loose grip of “conservation”. Meaning they are placing extensive human emotions on the animal along with displaying a creature that naturally would rather be in its habitat far far away from humans. Animals of course have emotions, however when these owners are pictured with a piece of chicken in their mouth and feeding a tiger/cheetah/lion to their mouth, that is raging anthropomorphic stupidity.
But these types of people are in plague proportions and many claim themselves to be “experts” in captive care and align themselves with “authority’ and develop “relationships” to ensure they get what they want regarding animals. Captive care should replicate the animals natural environment as much as possible. There is nothing natural about people cuddling and getting photos taken with carnivores.
Granted, there are some rare animals that hold certain characteristics which make them more human friendly, but they are rare and are certainly not born every day of the week, like some places like to tout.
I worked as an education officer inside a zoo that had natural habitat replicated enclosures. The animals were never touched/cuddled yet the visitors learnt so much and were inspired to support conservation in the field. There was no need to have an animal hanging off me or them to do this, it was purely the way that the public visitors were engaged verbally. Many of the people in these ‘cuddle creature” places just don’t have the passion to inspire the public and they rely on the living creature being present in their arms to entice the public. A great deal of the time little real education is passed on as the “owners” of these animals are more concerned about their own ego and how they look, and the public is over come with the beauty of the creature. The result, not much education or conservation information passed on or inspiring to make people get REALLY involved, and a whole lot of oooh’s and aaah’s and a possible donation to something the visitor didn’t really learn about and didn’t realize was just going towards more photo’s and cuddles with humans.
Another human created threat is the legalized hunting. Of course their are rights of tribal communities which entitles them to hunt for what they need in some cultures, however again even this must be monitored to ensure no excess or illegal poaching/trading occurs.
But the legalized hunting of creatures such as polar bears, lions, etc is sickening to the majority of human beings on earth. Statistics show that this industry attracts the rich. What is wrong with these people, cant they think of something environmentally friendly to do with all that money? And for the authorities who legalized it in the first place, what a staggeringly low concern they have for their wildlife along with questionable education and morals. Legalized hunting is tailored directly to the rich.
How do you make these people understand OUR EARTHS CREATURES ARE GOING EXTINCT AND THEY ARE PART OF THE CAUSE. The hunters try and tell you ‘hunting is conservation’… yep another mind bending morph of the true meaning of conservation. Wake up!
And then the last but certainly not least way that humans blunder around in conservation – Rescuing the “Orphans”.
Sadly there are cases of wild cubs of virtually every species being orphaned due to the parent being killed by poachers or in conflict with other carnivores or another tragedy. It does happen. When this happens the best practice management skill must be applied with conservation of the species a priority. Each case is different and must be assessed separately and CORRECTLY.
There are options of rehabilitation for the care of orphan’s for release at a later date. However species like the Tiger have a history of this being near impossible. Out of all the cat species the Tiger almost absolutely needs the mother to teach the survival skills and cannot learn the skills without her. The Tiger is critically endangered and faces consistent threats from poachers, habitat loss, loss of prey species, human/animal conflict etc. It is one of the most in demand tourism species in the world. Everything about the tiger means money – the poachers selling body parts for the fake traditional Chinese medicines, the tourist industry, national park funds, but you try to get millions of dollars spent directly to protect the tiger and you will find yourself trying to get blood out of a rock. Money money money…. And then places like the Tiger Temple in Thailand which advertise themselves as “rescuers of orphaned cubs”. The proven reality with this place is the tigers were originally bought through the illegal wildlife trade, to be exploited for greed and money and to be hidden in cement cells once they become too big for the public. Still, plastered all over the place and coming out of the mouths of the staff of the Temple is “this is for conservation”. Again, a twisted morph of the use of this word. You cannot class cross bred or inbred tigers in conservation.
The release option for other cat species is a little better. Lions in particular have a long history of successful releases, the work of George Adamson was remarkable and stands as a cornerstone of successful releases.
For cats like the Cheetah, there are many documented “unofficial” scientific successful releases, however nothing “official”. I’m not to sure why someone didn’t take the time to “officially” put this in a science paper. Whether it was recorded scientifically “officially” or “unofficially” its happened. Essentially it shouldn’t matter because there have been repeated successful releases.
Currently in Kenya a situation occurred where true orphaned cubs (the mother completely disappeared with no trace, suspected killed by lions & hyena) were rescued and taken to a highly ethical facility with highly experienced people who have been involved in successful cheetah release, however “unofficially” documented. They were to be cared for until they were old enough to be released in to the wild. However a huge outrage erupted from so-called ”professionals” claiming because there was no “official” scientific releases documented, the cubs must be jailed in an highly inadequate facility with little to zero chance of release into the wild.
The arguments about “what if these cubs couldn’t learn hunting skills” – the answer - they were to be given the best captive care in a free roaming large enclosure which replicates the natural environment that they would normally live in, and all that was in place.
The “enclosures” these cubs are now in are barren cement walls with bars. Far from the ethical environment they were in. It didn’t seem to matter to the “professionals and authorities” that these cubs were in the perfect environment to begin with, all that seemed to matter is that they got their way.
Conservation means to conserve,protect and preserve all wildlife and the environment in its natural state.
We’ve reached a point in our earths history where we are currently experiencing the greatest mass loss of species, at the hands of human beings,ever recorded. This is un-natural extinction, not natural extinction such as the ice age. This is resulting from human egos and people with no will to preserve the natural environment in positions of authority or in places of influence.
The horror being reeked on our earth will see many more species go extinct before “the powers that be” wake up and understand our earth’s resources are drying up.
Humans need animals in the wild in order to keep the ecological balance. If they go, so do we.
True conservation is left to warriors on the ground in the field, whether they be the honest rangers, the anti-poachers, the field personal, the human being striving in their own right.
One more point – in this technological world where news travels around the earth in a milli second and we have the internet social media, it opens up a whole new way to address issues. However, when a true conservationist voices their experience or is outraged at an unethical situation with a creature which they know without doubt could have been managed differently, they get told to shut up, or are threatened, or are questioned, or are slandered, or belittled etc etc.
It is difficult for a true conservationist to be heard sometimes because of the agenda’s or ego’s of people in positions of influence. However they are still out there fighting for the voice of the animal, fighting for ethical treatment, fighting for protection.
Why do we have to fight when it is simple to truly conserve.
But the true meaning of “conservation” has been morphed and moulded by some people into something that is nearly the opposite of its real meaning.
It is up to the true conservationist to keep speaking, keep forcing the checks and balances on the ‘authorities’ or ‘people in positions of influence’, because…. we are the keepers of our earth.
We can not and will never will be able to rule Kingdom Animalia.