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Attitudes towards culling

yellowstone bison elephant hwange badgers brumby brumbies culling

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#1 Soukous

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Posted 19 November 2015 - 11:14 AM

To cull or not to cull?

It is a subject that causes heated debate and one that has been discussed to some length in the thread "Hwange's Dilemma"

 

Yet, whereas the issue of culling elephant in one of Africa's National Parks brings howls of protest from all corners of the globe, the regular cull of other species, in the very countries where the loudest voices are raised on all subjects to do with Africa, seem to attract far less attention. Yes there is some local outcry, but it does not seem to be of interest to anyone outside the countries where it is taking place.

 

I read an article today about the proposed cull of over 1,000 bison in Yellowstone Park

Yellowstone National Park is proposing to reduce its celebrated bison herd by 1,000 animals this winter by rounding up those wandering into adjacent Montanaand delivering them to Native American tribes for slaughter, officials said on Wednesday.

The longstanding but controversial annual culling is designed to lessen the risk of straying Yellowstone bison infecting cattle herds in Montana with brucellosis, a bacterial disease carried by many bison, also known as buffalo.

 

 

A few weeks ago a friend mentioned to me that Brumbies, Australia's wild horses (more accurately feral), are culled on a regular basis. Link to just one article

 

A fight is brewing over the future of thousands of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park, with increasing pressure on the New South Wales Government to embark on a controversial culling program.

An estimated 6,000 brumbies run free in NSW alpine areas, a number that has tripled in the past 12 years, and senior rangers told the ABC they were losing the battle to control the growing numbers.

Rangers are currently restricted by law to only trapping and relocating feral horses out of the park.

 

It's not sustainable for us to sit back and not try and manage the horse population to protect the natural values of Kosciuszko. It's a really special place.

Tom Bagnat from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

 

Tom Bagnat, who oversees the horse management control plan for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), said rangers needed more options.

"We're now in a situation where over one third of Kosciuszko has horses in it, and they're increasing in number," Mr Bagnat said.

"We have to end up with some more control measures on the table for us, because trapping and re-homing - moving horses out of the park - is just not keeping pace with the growth in the population."

 

 

Here in the UK, celebrities are jumping on the bandwagon of protest against a national badger cull. badgers are believed by farmers to be a serious pest and spreader of disease.

 

All these proposed culls are seen as a last resort.

All are being proposed by the authorities charged with the responsibility of maintaining a particular habitat. 

 

Yet whilst all these culls do provoke some domestic protest, that protest very rarely spreads beyond national boundaries.

 

Why is Africa different?

Why does the suggestion of a cull in Africa stimulate howls of protest from all corners of the globe?

 

How would Australians feel if Kenyans started a campaign to protest against the Brumby cull?

How would Americans feel if Tanzanians swamped the Twittersphere with protests against the proposed bison cull?

 

I am not a proponent of culls. I do not have the expertise to say whether they are right or wrong. But why do people all over the world feel that their views on the management of wildlife in Africa must be taken into consideration?


Edited by Soukous, 19 November 2015 - 11:15 AM.

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#2 ZaminOz

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 03:23 AM

I believe that any cull should only ever be the very last resort. However you are right about the bias against Africa in this regard.

 

In Australia (remembering of course in almost all cases culls are aimed at reducing introduced feral species), there are regular culls of feral rabbits, cats, foxes, dogs, goats, pigs, deer, horses, camels and even introduced Asian water buffalo in the various states across Australia (each under their own legislation). Sometimes these culls are conducted by Parks rangers (in national parks) by poisoning / trapping for smaller creatures (rabbits, cats, foxes & dogs) ... yes I know what you are (or should be) thinking... "don't we abhor that behaviour by impoverished African poachers?!" ...  but mostly they are undertaken by sports hunters on private agricultural land (again shock, horror, "hunting") of rabbits, foxes, goats, pigs, deer, water buffalo etc.

 

In Western Australia the Sporting Shooters Association recently lobbied the state government to permit licenced hunting controlled by a professional hunter in national parks where only feral non-native animals could be shot on licence - thus reducing the need for parks rangers to set indiscriminate poison baits/traps for these feral pests (traps that also kill native species - but not as many as some of the ferals kill).... however the Greens and others got so "feral" in their opposition to this plan that it never got anywhere.

 

Feral animals and activists across the state celebrated ... and parks rangers continue baiting and trapping.


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#3 Towlersonsafari

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 01:59 PM

Hello @Soukous you raise an interesting point but as you will know in respect of the UK badger cull there is no scientific evidence that it works and it is not just celebrities that are against I would say most people are. It is a political decision. You could have more usefully mentioned the red deer cull attempts in Scotland hindered by a few sporting estates who want to keep deer numbers high but where a cull is needed to restore habitat or the mimk cull needed to try to save the native water vole.Where there are no other of and there is good science in support nobody would deny a controlled cull. One can have a lot of discussion about evidence and options of course.As for your last point Safaritalk would be a lot quieter without folk giving their opinions!

#4 Soukous

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 02:30 PM

"....in respect of the UK badger cull there is no scientific evidence that it works and it is not just celebrities that are against I would say most people are."

 

As with so many issues, a person's viewpoint will be influenced by how it affects them personally. 

I live in a rural area and all the farmers I know consider badgers to be a complete and utter pest. 

Quite apart from the possibility that they spread disease they are very destructive animals and cause considerable damage to crops and have a detrimental effect on other species. Bees in particular are being devastated by badgers digging out their nests. 


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#5 TonyQ

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 03:12 PM

@Soukous

I think there may be truth in what you say, but the badger cull isn't set up to protect crops or bees, or other species (other than cattle). It is sold as a way of tackling disease in cattle - and was intended to be a pilot. However the government has decided not to collect evidence about the effectiveness of the cull in achieving its stated objective.

 

The problem of commiting to one course of action and then not evaluating its effectiveness is that you cannot judge if some other course of action might be more effective. It may be the best approach, or it may be counter productive - but we don't know. The UK cull was certainly very expensive per badger killed - could the money have been used more effectively? (I don't know)

 

If there is a need to cull (and I am sure in a number of cases there is) it should be based on evidence of need and evidence of effectiveness against the stated objective.


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#6 douglaswise

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 03:37 PM

@TonyQ:

 

Because you brought up the subject of badger culling, I thought I'd respond.  There are currently about 600000 badgers in England alone.  They are responsible for some £60 million of agricultural damage annually if one discounts their unquestioned role in the perpetuation and spread of bovine tuberculosis.  The latter disease is costing the taxpayer and farmers combined a further annual sum of £130 million.  Before badger protection legislation was enacted there were not much more than 150000 badgers and the species was not considered to have been of conservation concern.

 

You are not correct in saying that results of the current licensed culls are not being monitored despite highly misleading claims to the contrary in the media.  I have been very actively researching this area for over 2 years and can send you a pile of documents on the subject should you be interested.  However, as I doubt that it is really relevant to this thread, I would suggest that you e-mail me at douglas.wise@gmail.com should you wish to follow up. 


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#7 TonyQ

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 03:53 PM

@douglaswise

Thank you for the response. I did not bring up badger culling, I responded to a number of previous posts discussing it. I accept your greater knowledge on the issue relating to the monitoring of the badger cull.

 

I was using a quote from DEFRA taken from the BBC

"Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "We have always been clear that the independent expert panel's role was to oversee the six-week pilots in the first year of the culls only."  If research is still going on to monitor the effectiveness then that is encouraging.

 

My post did not argue for or against a cull, it argued for using evidence to judge effectiveness against stated objectives.


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#8 douglaswise

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 06:39 PM

@TonyQ:

 

Fair enough.  I fully accept you were being open minded on the issue.  The independent experts' panel you mentioned was not asked to comment on the effects of the cull insofar as its effects in reducing bovine tb were concerned.  After 2 years it is now apparent that tb reactor rates have not increased in surrounding areas (no evidence of perturbation effect), but appear to have reduced markedly in culled areas.  It is still too soon to claim a triumph, but the results are extremely promising. Personally, I believe that the culling method could be hugely improved, reducing costs and improving humaneness.

 

In passing, I might mention that, in part due to a trip report from you, I have booked a 13 night stay at Barranco Alto in early June next year, taking my wife and two friends.  If it isn't enjoyable, you'll clearly bear partial responsibility! 


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#9 Towlersonsafari

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 07:58 PM

I knew you wouldn't be able to resist commenting on the badger cull @douglaswise ! I thing we can all agree that independent scientific research has to back up any cull in any country. I must also gently point out that my farming family have not as far as can recall spent too many sleepless nights worrying about the badgers rampaging across the land.The cull was supposed to be a method to reduce bovine TB and there is no evidence it works in the UK. Vaccination is perhaps a cheaper and more effective option.
We may have more of a meeting of minds on the red deer cull

#10 douglaswise

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Posted 21 November 2015 - 08:13 AM

@Towlersonsafari:

 

I don't know why I'm bothering to respond to your bait.  I know that you won't allow facts to interfere with your animal rights  views.  However, to state that "The cull was supposed to be a method to reduce bovine TB and there is no evidence it works in the UK" is completely untrue.  You would be to entitled, if you had studied the facts, to disagree with the evidence or to conclude that culling was not cost effective.  However, you should not lie in claiming an absence of evidence.

 

In contrasting culling and vaccination costs, you should appreciate that, where the former are higher, it is entirely due to policing costs necessitated to protect the cullers from the attention of animal rights activists.


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#11 Towlersonsafari

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Posted 21 November 2015 - 10:00 AM

Oh dear, how unfortunate. The badger cull was promoted as a solution to bovine TB and to suggest otherwise is a tad disingenuous. I would be very interested in seeing the evidence that it has worked.It is being rolled out to new areas Dorset for example without time to evaluate the existing cull. As for the cost of different methods a lot could be done to bring vacination costs down ( most of the vacination projects are funded by those evil animal rights groups such as the wildlife trusts) and if the cull was a genuine sttempt at solving a difficult problem then it would be science led and contrasted with other methods such as vacination and only then could a plan be agreed on. As for those seeking to disrupt the cull using legal means of protest compere and contrast that with gamekeepers carrying out illegal culls of raptors!

#12 Peter Connan

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Posted 21 November 2015 - 02:59 PM

Why is Africa different?
Why does the suggestion of a cull in Africa stimulate howls of protest from all corners of the globe?


Is it Africa that is different, or is it just certain high-profile species (primarily Elephant) that are seen differently?

Edited by Peter Connan, 21 November 2015 - 02:59 PM.

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#13 Tom Kellie

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Posted 21 November 2015 - 04:04 PM

My post did not argue for or against a cull, it argued for using evidence to judge effectiveness against stated objectives.

 

~ @TonyQ

 

Were you listening in to my Thursday afternoon class?

 

What you've noted above was brought out with elegant clarity by an environmental engineering doctoral candidate.

 

It's a pleasant surprise to read the same thought here in Safaritalk!

 

Tom K.


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#14 Tom Kellie

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Posted 21 November 2015 - 04:11 PM

Is it Africa that is different, or is it just certain high-profile species (primarily Elephant) that are seen differently?

 

~ @Peter Connan

 

Such species often seem to enjoy an immunity from being considered in their ecological context.

 

It's as though the species ipso facto possesses certain absolute rights worthy of a vigorous defense, wholly independent of any complex ecological realities concerning their presence.

 

There's a glowing scarlet-red hot button linked to such species which flashes when certain concepts are mentioned.

 

Those professionals working in all facets of wildlife conservation need the hide of a rhino and the patience of an adder.

 

Tom K.


Edited by Tom Kellie, 21 November 2015 - 04:12 PM.

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#15 Towlersonsafari

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Posted 21 November 2015 - 05:26 PM

Hello @Tom Kellie that is an interesting point .It does, from an emotional level seem more difficult to accept an elephant cull perhaps because they are intelligent, endangered and a native species.It seems counter intuitive! Culls can work especially for non native wildlife introduced by man where native wildlife is under threat as a result. As there are not really environments untouched by man some management is inevitable. An example of a very limited cull of a native species being culled to protect s much rarer species would be the RSPB obtaining a licence to remove a pair of kestrels that were predating little tern chicks at a time when the colony was very vulnerable. It all comes back to evidenced based science close monitoring and used as a last resort
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#16 Tom Kellie

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Posted 21 November 2015 - 05:40 PM

Hello @Tom Kellie that is an interesting point .It does, from an emotional level seem more difficult to accept an elephant cull perhaps because they are intelligent, endangered and a native species.It seems counter intuitive! Culls can work especially for non native wildlife introduced by man where native wildlife is under threat as a result. As there are not really environments untouched by man some management is inevitable. An example of a very limited cull of a native species being culled to protect s much rarer species would be the RSPB obtaining a licence to remove a pair of kestrels that were predating little tern chicks at a time when the colony was very vulnerable. It all comes back to evidenced based science close monitoring and used as a last resort

 

~ @Towlersonsafari

 

Thank you for your excellent comment.

 

Sometimes in my classes each week I feel like an endless loop continually calling for ‘stringent independent verification’ and ‘evidenced-based science’.

 

In both cases I stress the complexity of the natural world, the sheer number of variables, and how the seemingly inconsequential may, after all, have devastating ramifications.

 

There are no ‘one size fits all’ solutions to environmental conservation questions. Each issue needs to be patiently examined in terms of cultural context, economic factors, sociological realities, and a broad range of biochemical, physical and geological parameters.

 

The Hippocratic Oath taken by newly qualified physicians begins with ‘First, do no harm’. The same admonition might be applied to those considering what steps to take to heal a damaged environment.

 

Tom K.


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#17 twaffle

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Posted 22 November 2015 - 06:38 AM

I think one of the main problems that I can see is that the closer we, as humans, feel that a species emulates our emotions and intelligence, the less likely we are to condone culling. So elephants, Dolphins, apes and such like will always have a large human support against culling. Then you have the high profile species that have wide general appeal and they will also be hard to cull. It's easier to argue for a cull when the species is of little attraction to the wider public, if it is unattractive itself or has such a low profile that the general public don't know much about it.

When you look at the African species, as a whole they are some of the best known, highest profiled animals and the ones that feature on the most documentaries. They epitomise the idea of wild animals and a long lost ideal of a world long gone.

Rational, pragmatic people will be able to see the pros for culling feral species even if it is hard. I hate the thought of indiscriminate killing of feral horses because I'm a horse lover, but I know the destruction that they're doing so as long as it's is monitored and is as humane as possible, then one has to live with that for the greater good.
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#18 Towlersonsafari

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Posted 29 November 2015 - 09:54 AM

Those interested in the topic will be entertained to hear that none of the UK badgers killed in the cull this year were then tested to see if they carried TB

#19 Tom Kellie

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Posted 29 November 2015 - 02:54 PM

Those interested in the topic will be entertained to hear that none of the UK badgers killed in the cull this year were then tested to see if they carried TB

 

~ @Towlersonsafari

 

Really ?!?!?!

 

Considering the context and purported justifications for the cull, that's startling!

 

Tom K.


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#20 Atravelynn

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Posted 29 November 2015 - 11:14 PM

Many have articulately addressed this difficult question here.

 

Why is Africa different?  Elephants are a main target of culling in Africa.

Why does the suggestion of a cull in Africa stimulate howls of protest from all corners of the globe?  Because the elephant has such an advanced brain that generates behaviors we can relate to, the world has more sympathy for this species.  Whales (not necessarily in Africa and not being culled to reduce population) generate similar support, because of their cognitive and communication skills.

 

How would Australians feel if Kenyans started a campaign to protest against the Brumby cull? Much of the world does not know what a Brumby is.   Sounds sort of rodent-like and not that appealing.  But there are widespread appeals to save wild/feral horses, which generate a lot of support because of our long history and association with the species.


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