Editorial feature: Animal welfare & conservation in conflict

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2008:


While in Indonesia for the August 2008
Asia for Animals conference, the fifth in a
series co-sponsored by ANIMAL PEOPLE since 2001,
ANIMAL PEOPLE president Kim Bartlett joined
several other conference attendees in a visit to
the International Animal Rescue facilities in
West Java, near Bogor, two hours by car south
of Jakarta.
The visit provided an unexpectedly stark
illustration of some of the sharpest edges and
conflicts in the three-cornered relationship
among animal welfare, wildlife species
conservation, and habitat protection.

In theory, ensuring the well-being of
individual animals sounds as if it should be both
the starting point and the ultimate outcome of
protecting entire endangered or threatened
species, and protecting the animals’ habitat
would seem to be implicit in protecting either
individual animals or their species as a whole.
In practice, distinctions among the
goals and philosophies of animal welfare,
wildlife conservation, and habitat protection
emerge almost immediately, beginning with the
question of how and when humans should intervene
in the life cycles and feeding habits of wild
* What if preserving a species requires
trapping some of the last individual members of
the species-even if they are only those animals
who are debilitated and unlikely to survive in
the wild-and putting them into a captive breeding
program, at perhaps significant detriment to
their quality of life?
* What if these animals are predators,
whose offspring must be taught how to catch live
* What if there is no longer enough wild
habitat to sustain a breeding pool of a species
that will be large enough to ensure species
* What if there is some reasonable hope
that sufficient habitat can be acquired and
restored at some future time, if the species
still exists?
Such questions are vexing enough by
themselves, but are frequently compounded by
human economic interests.
Logging, mining, and real estate
development companies, for example–and their
executives and shareholders–often contribute
generously to animal rescue and rehabilitation,
and to species conservation in captive situations
such as zoos. The unspoken basis of the
relationship is that the companies’ destruction
of habitat must remain unimpeded, since logging,
mining, and development generate the revenue
that makes the donations possible, including
donations of land to conservation purposes after
much of the land has already been economically
Primatologist Dale Peterson and nature
photographer Karl Amman devoted much of their
320-page opus Eating Apes (2003) to detailing
many such relationships in Africa, linkng private
timber and mining companies, major international
conservation societies, and some of the world’s
most prominent zoos.
Many of those same corporations,
conservation societies, and zoos are involved in
similar dealings in Southeast Asia, along with
others of comparable modus operandi.
Should animal rescuers, rehabilitators,
and conservationists refuse money from
resource-based industries, knowing that
countless animals might then suffer from lack of
help and that whole species might disappear,
while habitat-destroying projects proceed anyway?
Habitat preservationists, conversely,
often have little or no interest in protecting
the lives of individual animals they deem to be
problematic or “non-native.” Historically,
habitat preservationists have been most
interested in preserving species when the
presence of an endangered species provides a
legal pretext for protecting broad swaths of
“critical habitat” that include scenic vistas.
Some habitat preservationists, the
Nature Conservancy in particular, have killed
tens of thousands of “non-native” animals to
“cleanse” nominally protected habitats, even
when the massacres have put endangered species at
risk. The effect on endangered island foxes of
the Nature Conservancy-driven effort to purge the
Channel Islands off California of non-native
hooved species is among the best-known examples.
First the fox population rose while feeding on
abundant carrion-which also attracted golden
eagles. Then, as the carrion was exhausted,
the golden eagles ate foxes instead.
Island species and habitat are especially
sensitive to any sort of environmental change.
Indonesia consists of 13,677 islands, many of
them the habitat of unique species or subspecies.
Because Indonesia is the fourth most populous
nation in the world, after China, India, and
the U.S., with a rapidly developing economy,
almost every part of the country could
potentially become a battleground over
conservation issues.
Worse, in Indonesia “battleground” might
be more than a metaphor. A nation only since
1950, Indonesia has seldom been free of civil
strife, and environmental conflicts might easily
become mixed with some of the regional and ethnic
issues that have often erupted in violence.
Between suppressing insurrections, Indonesian
military officers have frequently exploited their
positions for economic advantage, including in
facilitating rainforest logging and wildlife
trafficking. The well-placed perpetrators appear
to have been undeterred by decades of exposés
published in both western and domestic media.
As the Brussels-based International
Crisis Group reported in December 2001, and The
New York Times summarized, “Illegal activities
are protected and in some cases organized by
bureaucrats and the security forces, with the
military and police organizations deeply involved
in illegal logging,” which leaves displaced
wildlife vulnerable to hunting or capture.
Sidney Jones, the primary author of the
International Crisis Group study, was expelled
from Indonesia in June 2004, essentially for
knowing too much. Jones’ expulsion produced yet
another round of exposés, adding some linkage of
military and police involvement in illegal
logging and wildlife trafficking to militant
Islamicism. Again government pledges to stop log
piracy in national parks and to stop trafficking
in endangered species brought spasms of
well-publicized enforcement, but scarcely
stopped the pattern of abuses.
ProFauna Indonesia chair Rosek Nurshid,
for example, in February 2005 identified
military officers as major participants in
exporting as many as 100,000 illegally captured
cockatoos per year. His allegation was confirmed
in early August 2008 when a Malaysian smuggler
named E Kong Seng began talking after police
caught him and 10 others in possession of 8.25
tons of frozen anteater meat, 200 tons of dried
anteater hide, and 85 anteater gall bladders,
all packaged for export.
“He confessed to having bribed
high-ranking police and military officials,”
wrote Khairul Saleh of the Jakarta Post.
Animal welfare concerns have relatively
little organized voice in Indonesia, especially
compared to the U.S., India, and much of
Europe, but are emerging as a factor, including
in the efforts of conflicting economic interests
to put a friendly face on their activity.
Loggers, palm oil plantation developers,
and promoters of tourism are often linked through
family and business relationships to wildlife
exporters and exhibitors, as well as to their
facilitators in the police and military.
As tourism gradually supplants
resource-based development, first on Bali, now
in parts of Java and Lombok, some of the most
ambitious developers have learned to put a more
ecologicaly friendly face on their work. Some
claim to endorse, promote, and teach both
conservation and animal welfare. Rhetoric about
educating the public is a prominent part of the
facade. Some of the education seems credible and
sincere, though some is not; but even at best,
it tends to stop short of promoting habitat
preservation, and certainly falls well short of
promoting activism against economic development.
At the Bali Safari & Marine Park in
Gianyar, for example, a captive bird act
similar to those offered at many U.S. zoos
demonstrates avian intelligence. An elephant act
offers some sympathetic discussion of animal
welfare. An elephant wields an ankus, or
elephant hook, while handlers explain why the
park doesn’t use ankuses.
There are significant animal welfare
issues at the Bali Safari & Marine Park, such as
heavily sedating animals to give visitors the
opportunity to pose for photographs with them
(see page 1). There are also significant
economic issues. A newly completed indoor marine
mammal stadium resembling an exceptionally tall
aircraft hangar stands idle, reputedly because
of the potential effects on nearby beach-front
habitat if it is allowed to begin pumping in and
discharging vast amounts of sea water. The
dispute pits developers against developers.
On the whole, however, the Bali Safari
& Marine Park appears to promote both animal
welfare and species conservation via captive
breeding, with scarcely a mention that wild
habitat for the species bred there no longer
exists on Bali, and is rapidly disappearing from
the other Indonesian islands. The likelihood of
any captive-bred animal from the Bali Safari &
Marine Park ever returning to the wild would
appear to be slim, even if returning animals to
the wild was actually among the park goals.

Animal Rescue Centers

In recognition of the limitations and
problematic alliances of many Indonesian zoos,
representatives of the species conservation and
animal welfare communities rallied by the Gibbon
Foundation met at Bogor in July 2000, producing
11 recommendations for reform. The
recommendations were framed in the context of
enabling Indonesia to meet the terms of the
United Nations-brokered Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species.
The Cikananga Animal Rescue Center was
among seven officially designated rescue centers
that were opened within the next year through
partnerships among the Indonesian government,
the Gibbon Foundation, and several indigenous
Indonesian wildlife charities which had until
then enjoyed little official support or
Initially the Gibbon Foundation pledged
only start-up funding for the Animal Rescue
Center Network. By 2006 the network members were
supposed to have developed the fundraising
capacity to operate independently.
In actuality, as often occurs with
externally funded mission-driven start-ups, the
Animal Rescue Centers were directed by
scientists, activists, and volunteers who had
little if any experience in nonprofit
capacity-building, and tended to focus on their
animal-related programs to the near-exclusion of
developing their own donor bases.
Almost nothing appears to have been done
to generate support from the fast-growing
educated and affluent sectors of Indonesian
society. What fundraising was done appears to
have consisted mainly of writing grant
applications to other foreign foundations.
Predictably, the animal rescue centers
fell on hard times, even after the Gibbon
Foundation continued helping some of them beyond
the initial five-year cut-off dates. And then
the Gibbon Foundation itself faltered.
Recalled International Primate Protection
League founder Shirley McGreal in September 2007,
“Cikananga and the other centers used to have
secure and generous funding from the Gibbon
Foundation, run by Willie Smits, a Dutch
resident of Indonesia. The foundation’s funds
came mainly from the estate of the late
multi-millionairess Puck Schmutzer,” who died in
2006. “Besides funding the rescue centers,”
McGreal noted, “large sums were expended to
build the luxurious Schmutzer Primate Center
inside the appalling Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta,”
where resident orangutan rehabilitator Ulrike
Freifrau von Mengden had worked since 1952, with
the support of Smits and Schmutzer.
“The foundation was incorporated in
Liechtenstein and held its money in a Swiss bank
account, so IPPL was never able to locate
financial reports,” McGreal continued. “Now its
funds have mysteriously dried up, and the
sanctuary animals are suffering.”
No one appears to blame Smits for the
fiasco. As founder of the Borneo Orangutan
Survival Foundation, Smits and colleagues have
rescued and rehabilitated more than 1,200
orangutans since 1991. Smits has also founded
and directed conservation projects on behalf of
many other species, and has long been perhaps
the most prominently outspoken critic worldwide
of the habitat destruction by timber and palm oil
interests, especially, that threatens to drive
wild orangutans, gibbons, and many other
Indonesian species to extinction.
But the collapse of the Gibbon Foundation
meant the loss of the resources to continue
subsidizing the Animal Rescue Centers, and gave
the Indonesian government the opportunity to
withdraw support as well.
“On June 2, 2008 the Government of
Indonesia announced an early termination of
cooperation with the Gibbon Foundation in the
development and management of animal protection
centers in Indonesia,” stated the official
Smits has been on tour outside of
Indonesia for much of 2008, promoting a new
book, Thinkers of the Jungle, produced with
journalist Gerd Schuster and photographer Jay
Ullal. Smits’ speaking appearances and
interviews have drawn more global attention than
ever before to the dismal future of wild
orangutans. Global demand for biofuels has
accelerated deforestation of orangutan habitat to
create palm oil plantations, as Smits mentions
and documents at every opportunity.
But while Smits was abroad, the Animal
Rescue Center network collapsed, in a pattern
both paralleling and contrasting with the
destruction a decade ago of much of the orangutan
rescue and conservation work conducted since 1971
by Orangutan Foundation International founder
Birute Galdikas.
Galdikas, 61, was the third, youngest,
and last of “Leakey’s Angels,” following Jane
Goodall, whom the late anthropologist Louis
Leakey sent to study chimpanzees in Tanzania,
and Dian Fossey, sent to study gorillas in
Galdikas’ approach soon expanded from
scientific observation to hands-on care of
orphaned orangutans. This work is continued by
the Orangutan Care Centre that Galdkikas
established at Kalimantan Tengah, Borneo. The
center houses about 200 rescued orangutans at a
time, releasing about 30 per year back into the
diminishing rainforest.
As Galdikas came to recognize that the
individual cases she handled were representative
of threats to the entire orangutan species, she
became increasingly involved in habitat
conservation. From March 1996 through March
1998, Galdikas served as senior advisor to the
Indonesian minister of forestry on orangutan
issues, under the former Suharto government,
which had ruled Indonesia since a year before her
arrival. In that capacity, Galdikas was able to
designate 76,000 hectares as an orangutan
preserve. But the Suharto regime was toppled in
May 1998.
Wrote Galdikas a year later in the
Orangutan Foundation International newsletter
Pongo Quest, “Many people realised very quickly
that they could now do whatever they liked.
Tanjung Puting National Park,” home of about
6,000 orangutans, “is a case in point. The 50
square kilometer forest area with Camp Leakey at
its center has not been touched. But every other
part of the national park has been invaded by
illegal loggers. Unfortunately, the situation
reflects what is happening across Indonesia. All
national parks with stands of timber are being
logged and the situation is so bad that illegal
logging now outstrips legal timber production.”
Former Tanjung Puting orangutan
conservation volunteer Lone Droscher-Nielsen and
Willie Smits in 1998 founded the Nyaru Menteng
Orangutan Reintroduction Project to rescue and
rehabilitate as many displaced orangutans as
possible. The Nyaru Meteng center reportedly
now houses 630 orangutans, with little hope of
soon finding habitat suitable for any of them to
be released.
Galdikas campaigned worldwide to expose
the devastation in Tanjung Puting and elsewhere,
but ran afoul of conservation politics. In a
1999 biography entitled A Dark Place in the
Jungle: Following Leakey’s Last Angel into
Borneo, Canadian author Linda Spalding
questioned whether Galdikas’ emphasis on
individual animal rescue was an effective
approach on behalf of orangutans as a species.
Spalding’s arguments have been amplified ever
since by habitat conservationists who contend
that Galdikas’ concern for individual animal
well-being is a distraction from preserving
orangutan habitat.
“There are concerns that freed orangutans
spread diseases to the wild populations,”
summarized Greenwire senior reporter Darren
Samuelsohn in April 2008. “At Camp Leakey,
there are daily feedings for the wild and former
captive orangutans that often also draw tourists.
Some of the orangutans have attacked guests and
Borneo-based Nature Conservancy scientist
Erik Meijaard told Samuelsohn that Galdikas is
“playing around with symbolism without getting to
the core of the issue.”
The gist of the conflict may be a
difference in perception of the future of
orangutans, and indeed of most Indonesian
wildlife. Galdikas believes that if Indonesians
sufficiently take to heart the needs and nature
of wild orangutans, plantation developers can be
persuaded to leave buffer strips of natural
vegetation along watercourses and in places where
windbreaks are needed, enabling orangutans and
other species to learn to live among humans much
as most surviving wildlife does in India,
Europe, and North America.
While protecting large expanses of
habitat is ideal, Galdikas learned from her
experience at Tanjung Puting National Park that
protected habitat in a developing nation may be
viewed by many as an irresistible economic
opportunity, which one faction will exploit if
another does not. Galdikas remains committed to
protecting as much habitat as possible, but
appears to see raising public concern about
animal welfare as the most viable approach to
species conservation. As U.S.-based fundraisers
learned more than 50 years ago from the success
of the first “Smokey the Bear” campaign against
forest fires, the most successful appeals on
behalf of habitat begin with appeals on behalf of
individual animals’ needs.
The closure of most of the Animal Rescue
Centers, one by one, has not been nearly as
dramatic as the invasion of Tanjung Puting
National Park by log poachers, and unlike the
destruction of many Indonesian parks, it has not
been visible from space. Yet the closures have
amounted to dismantling much and perhaps most of
the fledgling animal welfare infrastructure of
Indonesia, and have resulted in wholesale
transfers of animals and influence away from
independent nonprofit agencies to privately
operated zoos.
The message is that wildlife will be
rescued and protected in Indonesia only if the
effort pays for itself. Since donor-funded
nonprofit rescue centers are deemed to have
failed, the political path is cleared for
proponents of zoological conservation, meaning
captive breeding without particular concern for
individual animals, and “sustainable
development,” meaning the exploitation of
wildlife in any manner which does not lead
directly to the destruction of a species.
The Animal Rescue Centers on Bali, on
the Jakarta outskirts, at Gadong, at Jogja, at
Kulonprogo, and on North Sulawesi all closed
during the summer of 2008. The Pentungsewu
Animal Rescue Center in Malang, founded and
partially supported by Pro Fauna Indonesia,
lasted a little longer than the rest, but closed
at the end of August 2008.
“Our rare and endangered species have
been handed over to Indonesia Safari Park II,
the Jatim Recreational Park, and the Malang
Municipal Recreational Park,” PARC project
manager Iwan Kurniwan told Wahyoe Boediwardhana
of the Jakarta Post.
“The center was home to 100 rare and
endangered species of primates and birds seized
from illegal owners,” wrote Boediwardhana.
“With the closure,” Iwan Kurniwan said,
“the government put all the rare species rescued
from illegal trade and smuggling into zoological
gardens, whose missions are not purely
That left the Cikananga Rescue Center,
“fully funded by the West Java provincial
government,” according to Boediwardhana, but
rescued from catastrophe by British-based charity
International Animal Rescue in August 2007,
after Jessica Boulton of The People reported that
“More than 200 creatures, including a bear, an
orangutan and her baby, and a rare slow loris
are fed only once every four days. They were
meant to be the ‘saved’ ones,” Boulton noted,
“after being plucked from cruel street
entertainers, horrific pet markets and roadside
Emergency funding from readers of The
People, the International Primate Protection
League, and the Born Free Foundation helped
International Animal Rescue to intervene.
IAR had become involved in Indonesia one
year earlier. “Since attending the Asia for
Animals Conference in Singapore last year,” IAR
announced in July 2006, “we have been building a
relationship with the Indonesian-based group Pro
Animalia International, founded in 2004 to
protect Indonesian wildlife.”
In December 2006 the Pro Animalia
founders, Spanish veterinarian Karmele Llano
Sanchez and Femke den Haas, originally from the
Netherlands, merged their project into
International Animal Rescue to become
IAR thus inherited their primate
rehabilitation program and an attempted
reintroduction of Brahminy kites to the region,
beginning with releases on Kotok Island, within
Thousand Islands National Park.
IAR has previously melded species
conservation and animal welfare work in Britain,
Malta, and India, partnering in India with
Wildlife SOS to rescue former dancing bears.
“The majority of our work is with
macaques. We are also trying to help slow
lorises, as the Javan slow loris just appeared
on a list of the 25 most endangered species in
the world,” explains IAR cofounder Alan Knight.
The slow lorises at the rescue center
have often had their teeth excised before sale as
exotic pets.
Knight “is researching the option of
dental implants,” Bartlett reported. “AR will
also try to find out if lorises can still kill
their prey without teeth, or if they can live
without meat. They only have a few lorises at
present, but expect to receive more. Knight told
me that if they cannot rehabilitate and release
the lorises, they will try to use them for
captive breeding, with the offspring eventually
released into the wild.”
“I don’t approve of animal welfare
organizations involving themselves in breeding of
animals for any purpose,” Bartlett noted, while
observing that the IAR macaque program takes
quite a different approach.
Throughout Asia, as street dog
sterilization projects have reduced the numbers
of dogs at large, macaques have invaded the
dogs’ former habitat, proving much more
difficult both to live with and to control. Tens
of thousands per year are captured for use in
biomedical research. Though U.S. laboratories
are the largest purchasers and any macaques sold
to the U.S. are supposed to be captive-bred,
primate conservationists and investigative
reporters who have followed the macaque traffic
suspect that wild-caught macaques from all over
Southeast Asia are being “laundered” through
southern China and sold to U.S. firms as “captive
IAR receives both crab-eating and
pig-tailed macaques from a variety of sources,
but mainly as cast-off pets. The IAR
rehabilitation program focuses on integrating the
macaques into progressively larger social groups
until they form troops big enough to be returned
to the wild, mainly in uninhabited areas on
smaller islands.
“All our macaques are sterilized before
starting rehabilitation. The males all have
vasectomies, although our first group was
castrated with no effect on the social structure
of the group,” Knight explained, contradicting
conventional belief that macaque troupes reject
castrated males.
IAR recently introduced the use of
laparoscopic endoscopy, a form of microsurgery,
to sterilize macaques with minimal incisions and
risk of post-surgical infection.
“I am really hoping we can convince the
Indian government to set up an Animal Birth
Control program for macaques,” Knight told
ANIMAL PEOPLE, “so they can help [humane
societies performing the surgery] to purchase the
equipment needed for the job. We hope to perfect
this technique of macaque sterilization in
Indonesia and then take it to India. We have
been given the green light to do this by Major
General R.M. Kharb, chair of the Animal Welfare
board of India, at the Asia for Animals
conference in Bali.”
Though the IAR slow loris project may be
constructed to emphasize species conservation
over individual welfare, while the macaque
project is mostly about animal welfare, both
projects are managed in a manner that minimizes a
conflict of ethics. Not so a Javan hawk eagle
project begun parallel to the Brahminy kite
reintroduction project.
The hawk eagle project, which has
released six hawk eagles so far, “uses
intensively-reared guinea pigs, a non-native
species, for live feeding to eagles who are
being readied for release into the wild,”
Bartlett observed. “I said I didn’t think
animal welfarists should be engaged in
live-feeding, much less in raising animals for
feeding to other animals in intensive confinement
systems that do not incorporate the Five
Freedoms,” promoted by Compassion In World
Farming and other organizations as the minimum
acceptable standards for animal husbandry.
“I asked if the guinea pigs were also
being used as meat for people,” Bartlett
recalled, but the hawk eagle program staff “said
they were only for feeding to the birds. The
guinea pig dung is used for fertilizing vegetable
gardens. They mentioned that sometimes the
guinea pigs escape from the eagles, but that
because of their bright coloring, they can
easily be spotted outside of the flight cages and
be brought back in. However, given the
fecundity of guinea pigs, it would seem that
just a few escaped animals might establish a
breeding population in the nearby jungle,”
Bartlett mentioned, a concern of
conservationists who have recently exterminated
feral guinea pig populations in Hawaii and New
“In addition to the guinea pigs, the
eagles are also fed lizards and snakes,”
Bartlett learned. “All in all, this would seem
to present a very bad humane education model.
“In my view,” Bartlett told the
assembled IAR visitors, “it shouldn’t matter to
an animal welfarist if an animal is from an
endangered species, because it is the individual
who suffers-not the species. I tried to explain
that when a species is designated ‘endangered,’
it achieves the status of ‘sacred’ and then all
other animals from non-endangered species can be
sacrificed to it-because they are predators of
the endangered species, or competitors, or
Wildlfe SOS cofounder Kartick
Satyanarayan suggested that if the hawk eagles
must learn to hunt live prey before they are
released from flight cages, an alternative might
be to throw grain down in the cages to attract
the native rats.
This would more closely simulate nature,
“and the rats would have a choice about whether
to risk eating the grain, as well as a much
greater chance of escaping from the eagles,”
Bartlett summarized.
“The welfare concerns in terms of live
feeding are the same regardless of whether the
project uses rats, guinea pigs, lizards or
snakes,” responded Animals Asia Foundation
veterinarian Heather Bacon. “I believe it would
be speciesist to be concerned only for the
welfare of the sole mammalian prey species
Knight told the IAR guests that the
presentation by the Javan hawk eagle project on
the day of their visit was the first he knew that
guinea pigs were fed to the hawk eagles alive,
and that he had earlier been disturbed by live
feeding of fish to sea eagles. “I was as
surprised as anyone that they use live prey,”
Knight confirmed later. “I reared snakes in my
youth and fed them dead prey that had been
heated. I will look into the problems with
feeding live prey,” he pledged, “as I am very
uncomfortable with this. I can assure you that
the Javan hawk eagle project is only $200 a month
out of a budget of $20,000 a month, so is 1% of
the work we do, and you can rest assured that we
will be looking at the feeding of raptors more
closely. We will correct the feeding methods or
remove our small funding of the project.”
Claiming to take a broader overview of
the project, beyond the live feeding issue,
Bacon argued that “It is not a question of eagle
versus guinea pig, or conservation versus
welfareŠBy conserving species such as eagles and
preparing them for the wild and training them to
hunt, you protect not only the welfare of the
eagle but also the habitat in which it lives, by
providing a reason for maintaining national parks
for a species of conservation interest, thus
protecting the welfare of all of the other
species within that animal’s habitat.”
But this presumes that the Indonesian
national parks are in fact being protected and
maintained as wildlife habitat, a debatable
proposition in many cases.
Extended to endangered species and
habitat everywhere, Bacon’s argument is the
reason why U.S. habitat preservationists have
focused on lawsuits seeking to protect the
“critical habitat” of broadly distributed rare
species such as spotted owls, marbled murrelets,
and red-cockaded woodpeckers, instead of-for
example-the much scarcer 31 endangered and
threatened bird species native to Hawaii.
In consequence, more than a third of all
the money spent to protect the 95 officially
endangered or threatened U.S. bird species, from
1996 through 2004, went to protecting spotted
owls, marbled murrelets, and red-cockaded
woodpeckers, as documented by Hawaii Division of
Forestry and Wildlife biologist David L. Leonard
Jr. in the September 2008 edition of
Conservation Biology.
Whether this skewed emphasis on species
with expansive “critical habitat” has actually
helped many other species is questionable.
Certainly the endangered Hawaiian birds have not
benefitted. Neither have barred owls, who have
been killed for hybridizing with spotted owls and
for extending their range into former spotted owl
If the theory that all wildlife can be
protected by protecting the critical habitat for
broad-ranging endangered species has failed in
the U.S., where the federal Endangered Species
Act has been in force for 35 years, with
billions of dollars and overwhelmingly favorable
public opinion behind it, the odds would appear
slim that this approach will succeed in the most
populated parts of the developing world.

Population pressure

Assessed Bartlett, “Experience in India,
and to a lesser extent in Kenya, has
demonstrated that national parks and forests will
only be protected by government as long as there
is no human population pressure surrounding the
areas. As soon as there is sufficient human
demand to exploit the ‘protected’ natural
resources or to establish human settlements in
the area, politicians accede to the demands to
open the reserves, and the wildlife and plant
species quickly decline.
“There is rapid human population growth
in Indonesia, especially on Java, which is
expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
The rising ocean levels caused by global warming
may simultaneously shrink land surface of the
Indonesian islands, while food shortages
increase the demand to turn forests into farms,”
Bartlett continued.
“Unless we can inculcate an animal
welfare perspective, all wild creatures are
endangered,” Bartlett predicted. “There is a
degree of overlap between certain animal welfare
projects and conservation efforts, but the goals
of animal welfare are to prevent suffering and
improve the lives of individual animals,” which
if practiced widely enough will protect the
health of species as well, “and the animals’
status as endangered or non-endangered is
“The goals of conservation are to
preserve native species and their habitat, and
to reverse the effects of human disruption of
ecosystems and the migration of so-called
non-native species into protected ecosystems,”
whose ideal state is usually supposed to have
existed at a relatively arbitrary time before the
arrival of technological civilization, western
civilization, or people with boats and dogs,
for instance.
“I see little science in the desire to
‘cleanse’ the environment of ‘invasive’ species,”
Bartlett wrote, “and I believe moreover that it
is anti-nature, since migration of species has
always been one engine of evolution, as animals
move into new habitat, and then adapt (another
engine of evolution) and out-compete rival
species, often driving them into extinction,
which is the principle of survival of the
fittest. Ecosystems have never been static
environments. I am not in favor of further human
intervention that disrupts ecosystems, but
neither am I in favor of restoring ecosystems if
it means killing animals who have adapted to
them. I say leave wild animals alone from now on
and let nature take its course. But of course
this will not happen.
“The point of conservation is generally
perceived as restoring and preserving a healthy
environment for the benefit of humans,” Bartlett
pointed out, “which has led to the concept of
‘sustainable use,’ now virtual dogma for
conservationists. Some conservative animal
welfarists accept the idea of humane consumptive
use of domestic animals, but even these people
generally draw the line at hunting, trapping,
and other consumptive use of wildlife, whereas
virtually all of the mainstream conservation
organizations accept hunting, trapping, and
other consumptive use of animals as ‘tools of
wildlife management’ or the means through which
‘wildlife pays for itself.’
“Despite all the effort going into
preserving endangered species, as soon as a
species has ‘recovered,’ it goes back on the
list of animals approved for killing. If the
point of preserving an endangered species is so
that it can eventually be caught, killed and/or
otherwise used again in the future, then why
should it be preserved at all?”
In effect, the “sustainable use” mantra
calls for treating wildlife like livestock, and
is therefore in fundamental conflict with animal
advocates who believe that “livestock species”
should not be treated like livestock, either.
Concluded Bartlett, “I think that short
of a miracle happening, the only wild animals
who have a good chance of surviving the next 25
years in countries with burgeoning populations
are those who either have no monetary or dietary
value; are prolific breeders; have low
territorial needs and can live in proximity to
human settlements without causing property damage
or crop destruction; are viewed as being
harmless to humans; are unafraid of or can cope
with humans; and are adaptable enough to survive
in a changing environment.
“At some point humans will themselves
adapt to changing circumstances, and perhaps
then the species who survive in the wild will be
allowed to live unmolested, while those who have
been kept alive in captivity might be returned to
wildlife preserves that are truly protected. But
that will only happen when and if people begin to
believe that animals have the same right to life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as human
beings, or at the very least that animals do not
exist to be props in the human environment, or
to be foodstuffs for humans or other commodities.
“I cannot imagine the conservation
movement on its present trajectory achieving the
necessary change in human perspective, though I
applaud the animal welfare initiatives that may
accompany certain conservation projects.
“We are not going to get ahead long-term
by substituting one animal victim for another,”
such as in conservationist efforts to encourage
Africans to eat more dogs instead of bushmeat,
Bartlett finished. “The whole paradigm has to
change, because conservation approaches are not
going to be successful in resolving the
fundamental problems of how animals and humans
can share the earth.”

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