People and Wildlife
Conflict or Coexistence?
Conservation Biology (No. 9)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2005
Online Publication Date:November 2009
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511614774.007
Subjects: Ecology and conservation
Throughout human history, agriculturists have used an array of techniques (irrigation, cultivation, fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, fences, etc.) to give domesticated species a competitive edge over wild plants and animals. Often the cheapest and most practical strategy came down to killing the competition – especially large vertebrates. Government agencies traditionally responded to agriculturalists' needs without concern for wildlife survival. In fact, the original mission of many wildlife management agencies was not to protect wildlife, but rather to kill all wild animals that threatened human safety or agricultural development (Graham 1973). Because of their slow reproductive rates and low density, large vertebrates proved relatively easy to eliminate, especially as people added poison, guns and bounty payments to their arsenal. Thus in the name of economic progress wolves were extirpated from most of the USA in a few decades (Young and Goldman 1944). Similarly, colonial officers ‘liberated’ vast tracts of fertile land in Africa from elephants, leopards and other threatening species (Naughton-Treves 1999; Treves & Naughton-Treves 1999). Elsewhere in the world, formal and informal lethal control programmes have driven the decline and even the extinction of several wildlife species (Breitenmoser 1998; Naughton-Treves 1999; Wilcove 1999; Woodroffe et al., Chapter 1).
Environmentalists today look back on these militaristic, morally charged campaigns in horror. Their calls to restore and protect wildlife are inspired by an increased appreciation of non-materialist values of wildlife. Now wildlife managers must respond to two seemingly contradictory mandates.