Scientist vs. Scientist: Compassionate Conservation

wolf-with-radio-collar

Well, it didn’t take too long to find an article where scientists seem to be disagreeing. I was surprised to find this point of view stated as fact (of course it is an op-ed) by a scientist from the Western U.S. Here is a link to the article in New Scientist. If you can’t see the article as a non-subscriber, make a comment below to that effect, and I will copy it.

Biologists are also re-evaluating the merits of reintroduction projects. The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park, for example, resulted in numerous wolves dying or being killed “for the good of other wolves”. The surviving wolves also lack protection, especially when they leave the park. As a result, scientists are concerned that the project is failing.

Other reintroduction projects are being similarly reappraised. A team at the University of Oxford assessed 199 such programmes and found potential welfare issues in two-thirds of them, the most common being mortality, disease and conflict with humans.

Hmm. “scientists are concerned that the project is failing?”

But this one made me wonder..

Compassionate conservation is also changing the way researchers tag animals. This is an integral part of conservation as it enables scientists to identify individuals and estimate population sizes. But it is often harmful or painful and can reduce the animals’ fitness, which compromises the usefulness of the data collected. More researchers are now using methods that don’t stress animals or alter their behaviour, such as unobtrusive tags or remote camera traps.

Compassion for animals isn’t incompatible with preserving biodiversity and doing the best science possible. In fact, it is a must. Mistreatment of animals often produces poor conservation outcomes and bad science. It is also immoral.

I always find it fascinating when people say “you should believe what I tell you because I’m an expert (scientist)” and then move on to a field that they’re not an expert in, in this case, morality. I think reasonable people could disagree that wolf reintroduction was “immoral.”

Given our discussion of the precautionary principle, maybe people should stop studying endangered species until they can prove their methodologies don’t reduce the fitness of individuals ;)..of course to study that you’d have to risk hurting them..complicated, no?

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