Is conservation going backwards?

 

Not been getting much chance to post recently with the workload but after reading about the badger cull pilots getting the go ahead I though it was important to raise this issue.

 

 

In the world of conservation we are always being told to help the Giant Panda or Bengal Tiger yet the animals on the verge of extinction are not the only concern. Sometimes we forget about the animals and environment on our doorstep. With hindsight extinctions both locally and globally could have been prevented but society had different priorities and less scientific insight in the past. Wolves were a common predator so were exterminated from most of Europe and the US. There are 63 mammals classed as ‘conservation dependant‘ and conservation costs money.

Panda Gao Gao in San Diego Zoo, USA

In the US, wolves have been reintroduced, at a cost. Now some states are allowing hunters to shoot them, against scientific advice. In Sweden, a wolf cull was blocked legally by conservation groups since it was not a viable cull. In the UK, foxes have been labelled an urban menace by politicians who suggested a cull, against scientific advice. In the UK, a badger cull pilot has just been given the go ahead, against scientific advice. No doubt there are other examples of countries trying to cull/reduce populations of native animals even if the scientific community are against it.

 

 

This post is just a personal rant after seeing the latest badger cull get the go ahead but if we don’t maintain current populations of animals not at risk through scientifically approved methods, we run the risk of adding to the ever-increasing endangered species list and having to spread conservation budgets ever thinner.

 

 

 

Urban fox – friend or foe?

Fox

Fox (Photo credit: AndyRobertsPhotos)

Anyone who has seen an urban fox, as I have, will know that although surrounded by an urban jungle they will shy away from you the moment you get near. I have seen two foxes in Sheffield City Centre, both when it was very quiet and both times the fox just strolled past (at a distance) and dived into the first hedge they could find.

Many of you will have read of a baby’s finger being severed by a fox recently in London, and you may remember the baby sisters mauled by a fox in 2010 as they slept. This type of attack, although tragic, is a rare occurrence to say there are 33,ooo urban foxes in the UK and 10,000 in London alone. The above attacks are mentioned here.

Put this figure next to another urban nuisance; the cat. There are around 800,000 feral cats, that roam our urban districts. Cats, which are certainly more willing to approach humans, can bite and scratch as almost anyone who has been on the wrong side of one can vouch for. And when I quoted the figure 800,000, I ignored the 9 million pet cats, many of which also roam freely around our urban and suburban areas. I’m not suggesting we cull cats, just putting the so called ‘nuisance’ into perspective. Lets look at another animal found in ALL urban areas; the dog. Now, I also get annoyed at the negative media portrayal of dogs every time there is an attack. albeit rare, dogs do attack and in some cases kill, more children than foxes.

Foxes hunt rats in the cities, rats spread disease and can enter households much easier than a fox. Foxes rarely rummage through bins, especially now the majority of bins are plastic wheelie bins! Most foxes only eat scrap food when it is fed to them by people who leave it out in their garden because they want foxes to visit. In my opinion, foxes are a true representative of urban ‘nature’ whereas cats and dogs are not, yet they produce many more issues and even cause more of a nuisance to gardeners.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has urged councils to tackle the increasing ‘menace’ of urban foxes however there is no hard evidence that the number of urban foxes has increased (one study found that they have decreased in some areas due to disease epidemics) and culls are known to be ineffective since new foxes just move into the newly presented territory.

As a final note on the subject, there are approximately 28,000 facial dog bites REPORTED in the UK with numerous deaths. These figures are easy to find through google. Fox attacks are harder to find, after trawling google I found 3 cases; the recent finger severing, the baby sisters in 2010 and a young boy being bitten after disturbing a fox under the garden shed, so lets not get the pitch-forks out just yet Boris. Here is the fox website for more information on urban foxes.

English: Mayor of London, Boris Johnson poses ... 

 

 

Wolves in Britain – A quickie

Back at University, I wrote an essay on wolf conservation with an emphasis on its reintroduction to Great Britain. I was hoping to get the essay onto my blog but alas, I can’t find it on this computer. If it isn’t on my old computer when I get chance to check then I will have to spend some time on writing a decent post regarding this issue. So, I thought I would write a brief one as I won’t have time to get into a reasoned argument until half term (only 2 weeks now!).

Gray wolf. Français : Loup. Nederlands: Wolf T...

Wolves were eradicated from this country around 400 years ago, largely through persecution. There is a large body of evidence showing that re-establishing a wolf population in Scotland (maybe Yorkshire is a bit optimistic) would actually be good for the Scottish ecosystem AND boost tourism. Opposition comes largely from the sheep farming industry however, a compensatory system for any sheep losses could be offset by this projected increase in tourism.  This is basically just an introduction to my main post on the matter, which I want to try and dedicate an entire day to writing so I can really hammer it home and show you where a lot of the evidence I use comes from. It would be great to hear your initial thoughts on reintroducing wolves to Scotland, and I will incorporate these into the next post 🙂

Issues in Idaho

 There are around 3,000 cougars, 20,000 bears and 1,000 wolves in Idaho. Which species receives the most protection?
gray wolf

gray wolf (Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Midwest Region)

 

  It certainly isn’t the wolf, because now there are only about 550 left after the state allowed the hunting of 400 wolves during the 2011/2012 hunting season. On top of this, hunters are allowed to sport-trap or snare wolves whilst it is illegal to do so with cougars and bears. There has been an uprise of negativity in the states towards the wolf and in Idaho, this has recently culminated in the torture of a wolf and a picture going viral of a US forest service employee with the wolf trapped in a snare. I don’t want to put the picture on my blog but it has been published in the UKWCT and the Daily Mail

  Idaho is widely regarded amongst the conservation world as crucial to the recovery of wolves in the Northwestern States. The controversy is not only this picture of brutality within the Idaho hunt, it is also the idea to allow the killing of 40% of the wolf population. Had either the cougar or bear population reduced this much in a short time frame, immediate conservation action would be taken. However, the state has allowed the killing of this many wolves because of a reduction in Elk numbers, even though Idaho’s department of fish and game have said themselves that things are looking good in terms of Elk numbers. Another reason given for such a high allowance of wolf kills is their impact on livestock numbers. These numbers though, are highly exaggerated; the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) use here-say from the livestock industry and released figures stating that 2,561 cattle had been killed by wolves in 2011. The FWS however, who use verified reports from agents, released the figure of only 75.

Cattle

Cattle (Photo credit: CameliaTWU (away for a while))

 

  Since government officials should be following the evidence-based advice, they should be looking at the FWS figures that indicate wolves have very little impact on cattle losses. Now lets look at some 2010 statistics, out of the 93,000 cattle losses only 6,100 were due to predation. Of THESE losses, wolves only accounted for 30% so let’s have a quick maths lesson; 30% of 6,100 is 1,830…. so just to get it clear:

93,000 cattle were lost in Idaho in 2010. Of these wolves were only responsible for 1,830 with coyotes and dogs being responsible for more.

  So why are wolves singled out? This species may be widespread across the globe, but they are only just recovering from extirpation across many areas and are still missing from the majority of their historical range. If this persecution continues, with other states also following suit, the species may once again find itself on the peripherals of its range and losing these smaller populations is one step towards a species extinction. Had we prevented the extirpation of Tigers, Rhino’s and Gorillas from their historical range in the past, they wouldn’t be as endangered as they are now.

 

Why I like Wolves.

English: A German Shepherd dog Polski: Owczare...

Littered around my room are pictures of wolves. Why do I like them so much? I think the main reason is because when I was born my parents had a 2 year old German Shepherd, Kazz. Kazz apparently used to stand over my pram and growl at anyone that came near. Obviously I don’t remember that but I do remember her lying at the end of my bed every night when I was older, going for walks with her and, the time she got out and we found her strolling down the street whilst pedestrians backed up against the wall (not that she was paying ANY attention to them!). I was 11 when she died and it was my first experience of death :(… Moving on 4 years and I worked at a kennel from the age of 15-18, this experience introduced me to other ‘wolf-like’ dogs and I grew very attached to a regular customer, a Siberian Husky. This instantly became my new favourite dog but it wasn’t until I went to Canada in 2004  that I paid more attention to wolves. Over there, there seemed to be a big ‘wolf’ theme. I bought countless postcards and a large mounted picture.

English: Female Siberian Husky in the snow

That was the official start of my fascination with wolves. Studying Zoology at university I was able to slip them into as many essays as I could, with one on the senescence of dogs (linked strongly to wolves) and another dedicated to the conservation of wolves and it was probably my best work during the 3 years there :). I bought the wolves textbook, check it out, to help me with this and learnt a lot more about their behaviour and conservation.

Español: Lobo en el zoo de Kolmården (Suecia).

I now follow all the latest updates on wolf conservation and my life ambition is to see them in their natural habitat. I will regularly post on developments surrounding their conversation, intermediated by overviews on their current status in different parts of the world. For now, I hope this post has filled you in on why I like wolves, after a few more posts I hope you do too :).

English: The Gibbon wolf pack pauses in the sn...