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Compassionate conservation in focus

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week (1 to 3 September) we're attending the international symposium Compassionate Conservation, Animal Welfare in Conservation Practice, held at the University of Oxford. The symposium is arranged by The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and the Born Free Foundation, and includes more than 40 speakers representing a variety of perspectives on this important conservation topic.

Joyce is presenting our talk "Elephants on the edge: The use and abuse of individuals and societies". Presentations from the symposium will be posted on Compassionate Conservation' website, and we will also post a video version of ElephantVoices' presentation on ElephantVoices.org.

Abstract ElephantVoices' presentation:

The lives of individual animals matter, because what we do to them has consequences for their well being and for the health of the complex societies in which they live. The continued existence of populations of social species, like elephants, is dependent upon the endurance of friendships and the integrity of families and clans. In the name of conservation and "sustainable utilization" these individual building blocks of societies are often forgotten, purposefully ignored and disposed of as organizations and nations barter away lives to supply the ivory trade, provide for a hunter's bullet and supply captives for zoos, circuses and elephant-back safaris.

The sentiment that wildlife must "pay to stay" underlies a widespread attitude in which individual animals, societies and species have no business being here unless they prove themselves commercially useful. Yet, with this undermining of respect for other sentient beings, what will happen as human populations continue to soar and wild animals and their habitats inevitably dwindle? Instilling understanding of the interdependence of life, and accountability and compassion for the lives and interests of other beings, must be incorporated into our conservation philosophy to ensure the health of our planet, its web of species and our own survival.