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The Ethics of Culling Elephants

The Ethics of Culling Elephants. Should elephants be culled?. Three stories… Ian Whyte Sipho Morake Jason Smith Culling elephants is… an international issue at odds with conservation? . Recent history of elephants in Africa demand for ivory

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The Ethics of Culling Elephants

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  1. The Ethics of Culling Elephants

  2. Should elephants be culled? • Three stories… • Ian Whyte • Sipho Morake • Jason Smith • Culling elephants is… • an international issue • at odds with conservation?

  3. Recent history of elephants in Africa • demand for ivory • reduced numbers from 1.3 million to 609,000 • in Africa 1979 – 1989 • CITES ban on trade in elephant products 1989 • did achieve reduction in poaching • poaching in KNP? 285

  4. Kruger’s dilemma: A case study • how many were there long ago in the area? • historical evidence  not many • 1967  aerial count: 6,586 • decide – 7,000 as limit [“carrying capacity”] • annual aerial census [helicopter] • decide then on removal quota • capture, translocation, culling

  5. Kruger now? • current practice • moratorium: stopped culling in 1994 • challenged by animal rights group • numbers? • not 7,000 • but 9,150 [1999] • 11,671 [2003] • impact on biodiversity? • “park destroyed in 10 years’ time”?

  6. Should elephants be culled? • Part 1 – Should we manage elephant populations? • “Hands off elephants?” • The nature of the issue 1. A complex set of intersecting issues 2. Even no decision is a major decision, because of the consequences. 3. Science has information, not answers. Emotions have attitudes, not solutions.

  7. Conclusion 1: • It is our choice, based on our ethics, what we want from conservation areas • This eventually ends up as guidelines for management practices. • There is no scientific information & data that forces us to make a definite choice one way or the other. • Emotions must be critically interrogated to become meaningful guides to action in conjunction with reason and ethics.

  8. Against culling [1]: "Leave nature alone: Don't interfere." • allow nature to run its course; establish own balance • firm scientific evidence from many disciplines • let nature be; elephant problem will sort itself out • problems: • damage may take centuries to recover, if ever • risk irreplaceable areas of pristine natural beauty? • story: Daphne Sheldrick in Tsavo 1970–1971

  9. Environmental laissez faire • dying of starvation over a period of weeks  shot by a rifle from a helicopter within two minutes? • drought & human inaction and omission • mistaken assumption; “nature…” • ecological processes operate at large scales • pristine wilderness areas have shrunk dramatically.

  10. Conservation areas • sanctuaries for wildlife • small islands of wilderness • amidst the African lake of human settlements • established to protect wildlife from extinction • human population growth • exploitation and destruction through hunting

  11. Conservation areas • artificial constructions & sites of human interference • examples • “fences” • rivers • artificial water-holes • cattle • exotic plant material

  12. goal of the conservation of wilderness areas • protect natural world diversity • why not use the concept biodiversity? • because I want to deliberately include… • all forms of life… • …as well as landscapes • places of geological interest • ecological processes & ecosystems • water systems • genetic diversity, and so on

  13. We must interfere to correct unacceptable human influences that disturb nature’s balance otherwise we will merely condone human intervention and interference that occur anyway. Conclusion 2: • Humans have already massively interfered with nature and must take responsibility for this interference • therefore we ought to interfere responsibly to conserve pristine wilderness areas in as natural a state as possible for future generations.

  14. Against culling [2]: “Animals have rights and thus no elephant may be shot” • harshest critics of culling = animal rights activists • do animals really have rights? • do all sentient beings have interests we must protect? • “let them be!” • keep “human predators out of their affairs” • animals cannot administer their own rights • cull elephants to protect the rights of millions of other living beings? • story: Knobnose & Doughnut

  15. Conclusion 3: • Elephants are very special animals [mammals] that deserve treatment with respect. • But, they are not rights bearers at the same level as human beings • They are not necessarily deserving of much more respect than dogs or lions.

  16. Against culling [3]: “Ban human utilization of conservation areas” • link to culling? abattoirs • conservation areas used by human beings? • political preconditions for their existence • goal = conservation of natural world diversity • NB • conservation areas can have multiple uses • can induce complex, diverse human experiences

  17. Four uses of conservation areas 1. deep appreciation - in awe of its wonders • a humbling experience 2. interests of the current generation • must have access & an opportunity to visit Conclusion 4: We cannot ignore the interests of tourists… manage with the utmost care to portray natural world diversity at its best.

  18. Four uses of conservation areas 3. future generations • must have similar opportunities to ours • pristine, wilderness areas: once lost, gone forever 4. pragmatic uses • the benefits we don’t yet know • the benefits we do know • story: Joshua

  19. Must we reject sustainable use of wildlife? • reasonable moral pluralism • cultural-ethical imperialism? • Can rich, privileged First World environmental activists impose their cultural and personal ethical views about deeply controversial moral issues of hunting and eating meat… • …on poor African rural peasants with centuries of traditions of sustainable use of African wildlife having minimal impact on the environment?

  20. Conclusion 5 • We cannot ignore …people living next to wildlife sanctuaries; ….the history of their neglect…, or their exploitation through the expropriation of their land for conservation purposes • The legitimacy of conservation… can be established partly through benefiting the people most closely affected by conservation in their daily lives, those who often bear the cost of conservation…

  21. Interlude – A case for intervention • to protect natural ecological processes • reverse or neutralize human interference • treat animals with respect to preserve their lives • intervene when absolutely necessary in conflicts to promote the diversities of the natural world • humans have multiple uses for conservation areas. • respect such uses if they do not spoil or harm the preservation of natural world diversities

  22. Part 2 – Is culling elephants ethical? • current management options • simulation of nature, translocation, contraception, and culling • ethically acceptable? • all four are ethically flawed • an issue in the “real world” • strive to realize the best of several bad options • best option by far - not to interfere with elephants

  23. Simulate nature: uncertain experiments • eliminate all human interventions • e.g. waterholes • will keep numbers at acceptable levels • experimental ideas not yet proven workable • kill young calves between 4 and 9 years old • they would die in droughts anyway • cruel to mothers and herds?

  24. Translocation: ambiguous export • story: Douw Grobler • a high risk operation • limited trauma of translocation… • ethically better than culling • translocation almost excluded as option… • vacancies in elephant habitat are scarce • merely temporarily exporting the elephant problem to other conservation areas

  25. Conclusion 6 - Translocation • Although expensive, one of the ethically most acceptable ways of dealing with overpopulation • the procedure is risky, the animals are traumatized, and they are severely disoriented • At least they are still alive and can enjoy the company of their core family group. • Translocation has limited value, as the demand for elephants is minimal compared to the supply.

  26. Contraception: a possible, though perhaps flawed solution still under investigation • a long-term solution? • pZP “one shot vaccine” for five years & safe • behavioral change & practical? • “a promising alternative” and “might soon” • wait for long term scientific studies • logistics and cost of vaccination • invasive method • allo-mothering?

  27. Conclusion 7 • presents the apparent promise of a successful non-violent intervention to limit elephant numbers • raises ethical issues – a chemical invasion • this method should be used judiciously in small elephant herds on an experimental basis, and be carefully studied and monitored • perhaps in future well-supported evidence might show this method to be ethically best justified, as well as logistically feasible.

  28. “The killing fields of culling” • stories: Andrew & Katy Payne • Culling is gruesome. • In an ideal world we should not even consider it.

  29. [1] Culling only to deal with a serious and imminent threat to the continued existence of the rich diversities of the natural world. • Reasons must be firmly supported by the best available scientific information • The optimum number requires a complex judgment: how many elephants to fulfill their creative ecosystemic function of opening up woodland to establish habitat requirements, open up living space, and generate opportunities for other species to flourish.

  30. [2] Culling can never be the first option, but must be the only option left to avoid a conservation disaster [4] well-trained, professional teams should avoid prolonging any suffering by killing the elephants as humanely as possible in as short a time as possible [debriefing, counselling?] [5] The number of elephants to be culled must be proportionate to the threat they pose.

  31. [6] As much as possible of the evidence of a culling must be removed from the conservation area for the sake of the elephants. [7] One could argue a case that magnificent trophy animals ought to be excluded from culling… The case for not killing elephants in special relationships with humans needs almost no argument. [8] If culling is justified in a specific case, then the meat, hide, and ivory must be utilized to the benefit of conservation.

  32. Conclusion 8 • If culling is to be used, it must only be used as a last resort once reasonable people judge that all possible other options have been explored and exhausted • If chosen, culling must be done as humanely as possible.

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