Managing Our Wildlife Heritage - Part Three

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  1. Ron Thomson

    Ron Thomson CONTRIBUTOR AH Member

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    Managing Our Wildlife Heritage - Part Three

    Foundation Principles (B)
    One of the biggest mistakes that our media people make, when they report upon controversial wildlife ‘conservation’ issues, is that they bludgeon the subjects of their reports to death with personal opinions. Few people in the media take the trouble to even try to understand the principles that govern the practices of wildlife management. This is the same mistake that people in all walks of life make. Before this column can enter the complex realm of discussing ANY controversial wildlife issue in rational terms, therefore, it must first expose and explain the foundation building blocks that will enable us to understand the complex science of wildlife management.

    One of the first things we have to understand about wildlife management is that is not ‘natural’. Wildlife management is an artifact of man. It is something that man has invented in order that he can achieve objectives in the natural world that MAN desires. Wildlife management is:

    1. Man conceived;
    2. Man designed;
    3. Man implemented;
    4. Man manipulated; and
    5. Man is the principle beneficiary.

    This means there is no wrong way and no right way to practice wildlife management. The practices of wildlife management are good, or appropriate, when they achieve the goals that man desires. They are bad, or inappropriate, when they don’t.

    There are also a variety of different ways that the same objective can be achieved so different practices can achieve exactly the same objective. For example: If it is the management objective to reduce an impala population in number by 50 percent, this can be achieved by culling, by capture-and-translocation or by hunting – or via a combination of all three. As long as the objective is achieved the practice that achieves it can be considered appropriate.

    The practices that are used to achieve a wildlife management objective, however, are governed by other factors, too. Because it has been government policy NOT to use hunting as a management tool in a national park, the reduction of an impala population in a national park by use of the hunting tool is considered inappropriate. This means, only the management practices of culling and capture-and-translocation are acceptable. In this case the non-hunting dictum is part of the spectrum of wildlife management objectives in a national park.

    All three practices, on the other hand, are acceptable on a private game ranch because they are all help to achieve man’s wildlife management objectives on private land.

    Wildlife management practices are often the subject of controversy in the public domain because certain segments of our society object to them. Culling and hunting are not acceptable to those people who abhor the idea that man should kill an animal – any animal. These are subjective and personal-opinion objectives that can be easily diverted because they are not rational.

    Capture-and-translocation are ONLY acceptable to some people when this management-tool is done purely for ‘conservation’ purposes and NOT for profit. THIS is an animal rights argument that will be dealt with at length in a later separate column.

    What CAN be brought into legitimate wildlife management dispute – in a national park and/or on private land – is the nature and the wisdom of certain wildlife management objectives. To cull or not to cull Kruger National Park’s excessive elephant population is one such objective. The provision, or not, of artificial water for game in a national park is another. Whether there is merit, or not, in extending the water supply policy in Kruger National Park to the private game reserves that border the park, is another.
    On private land the issue of ‘canned’ lion hunting is yet another. The list is endless.

    What needs to be understood about wildlife management objective disputes is that there is often merit in BOTH the arguments made by those who support a particular management objective - AND those who don’t. The objective that prevails - and is therefore supported by management action - must be supportable by rational argument; and it should acknowledge that there is merit in some of the opposing arguments.

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