“We all make choices about where to live and need to take into account the lives of the animals we’ve affected or are going to bother when we redecorate their homes.” ~Marc Bekoff Ph.D. 

Source: Being “Mad About Wildlife” and Redecorating Nature
Marc Bekoff Ph.D. 

Animal Emotions

Coexistence with animals means living peacefully together.

Posted Jun 05, 2012

I’m constantly being asked about how to survive with the animals into whose homes we’ve wantonly trespassed as we incessantly redecorate nature. More and more people say they want to “return to nature” and live among other animals, but many decide that actual co-existence comes at too much of a cost when the animals become “pests.” So, the human intruders (and we are indeed an invasive species) decide how they’re going to share space and far too often the native residents or those who have moved in and lived in a particular area for years on end – the animals themselves – get the short end of the stick, so to speak, as they’re relocated, trapped, poisoned, or shot.
As the very animals who were at first attractive become annoying they’re treated as disposable things rather than as living beings. The Humane Society of the United States along with many other organizations has long been interested in the “problem” of urban and suburban wildlife and a new publication called “Living with Wild Neighbors in Urban and Suburban Communities” is now available. A snippet from their introduction is very informative:
“In recent decades, our cities and suburbs have grown and taken over rural areas. Many wild species take advantage of conditions they find—the conditions we created.
“We unwittingly created ideal habitat in our cities and suburbs for many wild species. If you could ask a Canada goose what the perfect place to live looked like, she would describe a golf course. While we think of white-tailed deer as forest dwellers, they actually prefer edge habitat—places where woods meets open areas, common in modern suburbs and along our highways.
“City dwellers and suburbanites usually have limited experience with wildlife before an issue comes up. They often don’t understand why a problem occurs and rarely have experience with similar conflicts. They look for an easy “silver bullet” solution which almost never exists.
“A common misconception is that getting rid of the animals will get rid of the problem. The reality is that nature abhors a vacuum: Removing animals simply allows the remaining animals to reproduce more successfully and invites more in to fill the empty space. Effective solutions need to address the conditions that attract animals into conflict with us.”
This particular publication deals mainly with human conflicts with Canada geese who sometimes are poisoned or shot because they poop on golf courses, white-tailed deer, beavers, and coyotes, but there’s no dearth of information available for how to coexist humanely and ethically with many other urban dwellers (see also and and and). 
We all make choices about where to live and need to take into account the lives of the animals we’ve affected or are going to bother when we redecorate their homes. Many neighborhoods show concern for their local fauna. A few weeks ago on a bicycle ride up to the small town of Jamestown outside of Boulder, Colorado, I saw a sign about the local foxes asking drivers and cyclists to slow down so that the foxes would be safe. It’s still there and many people have told me about it as well. And the town of Superior, Colorado has formed a partnership with California-based Project Coyote to promote a project for peaceful coexistence of people with coyotes.
I’ve also had a few close encounters of the lion kind, on three occasions finding myself within touching distance of a cougar. I survived these encounters and frankly don’t need to meet another cougar up close and personal.
I’ve also had black bears try to enter my house and keep me confined inside because they liked hanging out on my outdoor porch. One large male bear had the audacity to leave a huge pile of poop near my front door because I’d asked him to leave so I could get to the airport on time. Another large male casually walked on to my porch as I was eating dinner. He was about 6 feet away so I ran into my house and closed the screen door and he walked over and tried to slide it open. I told him that this was my dinner as I slid the glass door closed and he walked off as if nothing had happened. I didn’t think my vegan fare would be of interest. I got a nice picture of him leaving and sauntering slowly to a house down the road where he immediately went to sleep under a hammock.
That’s the way it is where I and many others choose to live, and I welcome my wild neighbors to come back anytime. I love seeing them and knowing they’re around. Nonetheless, I’ve had to change my habits from time to time but that’s because I’ve chosen to live in their living rooms. As I write this essay there’s a beautiful mama bear and her two cubs living around my house. She’s been around for at least 2 years. Just yesterday 2 other adults joined her and now there are 5 gorgeous bears hanging out on their land. All of the people on my road are incredibly excited to have these magnificent bear beings around and we constantly share photos and videos about their meanderings.
Part of rewilding ourselves and our hearts is to embrace the animals with whom we share space and time and appreciate that when we have to change our ways it’s an indication that we know we are indeed sharing space with other beings who care very much about what happens to them, their family, and their friends. If you’re not willing to make these changes and you choose to ignore nature then perhaps it’s best not to live where magnificent animals roam and try to survive. I’ve often asked realtors to be up front with people when showing them homes or lots where wild animals live. 

But, I’m “mad about wildlife”

People often tell me they’re “mad about wildlife” and I’ve come to see that this phrase has a double meaning. When people say they’re mad about wildlife and love wild animals and then harm them, often causing intense suffering and death, I always say I’m glad they’re not mad about me. Our fickleness causes great harm and it’s an arrogant and anthropocentric double-cross to choose to move into areas where wild animals are known to live and then compromise their lives.
I find it challenging to figure out how to coexist with my wild neighbors so we can all live safely and in peace and I know many others do too. We can learn a lot about other animals and ourselves when we appreciate just who our wild neighbors are. Youngsters can learn valuable lessons about other animals and other nature as well. We can all be Companions in Wonder as we share experiences and explore our wonderful planet. Source

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Featured image by Bill Lea

Compassionate Conservation

When I think of compassionate conservation several well known conservationists, scientists, and psychologists come to mind. On a scale one to ten Dr. Jane Goodall, Joy Adamson, Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, and Marc Bekoff Ph.D all rate in the top ten for their compassionate ideals and work regarding wild Animals.  I  believe that it is wrong for humankind to kill off one species to save another because it is not acting in the best interests of wild animals and the ecosystems they support.

In a recent Facebook post on Todd Wilkinson’s timeline I was alerted to a column by Dr. Marc Bekoff on the subject of ‘compassionate conservation.’ and decided to post Beckoff’s thought provoking article on my blog.

Compassionate Conservation Meets Cecil the Slain Lion A recent meeting focused on whether we should kill in the name of conservation Post published by Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on Aug 09, 2015 in Animal Emotions

The broad and interdisciplinary field of conservation biology(link is external) has received a good deal of attention in the past two weeks that has stimulated researchers and others to weigh in on what sorts of human-animal interactions are permissible as we try to save nonhuman animals (animals) and their homes. For example, some of the challenging questions that arise are: Should we kill in the name of conservation? Is it okay to trade off the lives of animals of one species for the good of their own or other species? Is seeking the “most humane” way of killing animals the only way to move forward? Is it possible to stop the killing of other animals and factor compassion that centers on the lives of individuals into our decisions? Should we try a “hands off” policy to see if it works where it’s clear our interference, despite our best intentions, has not solved the problems at hand? How do we factor in the interests of other animals and humans as we deal with the numerous — and growing — challenging and frustrating conflicts at hand? The field of anthrozoology(link is external)focuses on these and other questions.

Clearly, there are going to be differences among the people who are trying to save other animals and their homes and also take into account the interests of humans. And, this is what makes the field of conservation biology so exciting, for we are the only animals who are able to do what needs to be done to reverse the rather dismal and depressing situations in which humans and other animals find themselves in conflict. It goes without saying that the major problem is that there are too many humans and if we don’t stop making more of us it’s going to be a long and hard battle to right the wrongs for which we are responsible. And, given all of the information that is currently available, I like to call attention to a quote from William Wilberforce sent to me by Sadie Parr of Wolf Awareness(link is external), “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.(link is external)

Compassionate conservation comes of age

A recent meeting that centered on the rapidly growing international field called compassionate conservation(link is external) brought people together from all over the world, all of whom are trying to reduce or eliminate human-animal conflict. The conference was sponsored and coordinated by the Born Free Foundation(link is external) and the Centre for Compassionate Conservation(link is external) at the University of Technology, Sydney and hosted by the Animal Welfare Program(link is external) at the University of British Columbia (for more on compassionate conservation please click herehere(link is external), and here(link is external)). A most exciting part of the meetings was the presence of numerous students and young researchers. And, also very stimulating, were the obvious differences of opinion — the expected shades of gray — in what is possible and what methods are permissible as we try to deal with rampant and growing global human-animal conflicts. Some people argued that in the “real world” the “most humane” ways of killing are the only ways forward, whereas others argued that compassionate conservation is not about the “most humane” way of killing, but rather centers on stopping the killing because it is unethical and in many instances it really hasn’t worked. For them, individual animals are the focus of concern and the guide for compassionate conservation and “First do no harm(link is external)” means not harming or killing other animals “in the name of conservation.”

There also was very valuable discussion of the words people use to refer to the killing of otherwise healthy animals “in the name of conservation,” with the recognition that it is not euthanasia, or mercy-killing, but rather “zoothanasia” when it’s done in zoos or slaughter when done in other situations (please see “Animal ‘Euthanasia’ Is Often Slaughter: Consider Kangaroos“). Also of interest was the use of the word “pests” to refer to animals who are causing problems. Many agreed that it’s humans who are the pests, but because we can dominate and control other animals, they pay the price for just doing what comes naturally for them but is bothersome for us.

Clearly, there were many valuable discussions, and the abstracts of the broad array of papers that were presented can be seen here(link is external). They are a goldmine of information on the broad topics that were covered, the numerous different species discussed, and anthrozoologists should them to be indispensable for future studies of human-animal relationships. We learned that many wild animals really aren’t free (Yolanda Pretorius of the Centre for Wildlife Management at the University of Pretoria told us that elephants in South Africa are fenced and can’t migrate) and that “methods to assess the well-being of elephants are not included as a requirement for developing an elephant management plan.” Moles are ruthlessly killed in the UK because they destroy gardens and in many locations geese are killed because they poop on golf courses. We take away the geese’s habitats and then we kill them because they have nowhere else to go.

We also learned in a paper by MarÍa Fàbregas and G. M. Koehler of Save China’s Tigers(link is external) that in order to reintroduce critically endangered captive South China tigers back to restored protected areas within their historic range in China, they are allowed to practice killing ungulates. Many people were rather concerned with this practice, and it reminded me of breeding golden hamsters to allow endangered black-footed ferrets to practice killing them before being released into wild habitat. For many, these sorts of trade-offs are unacceptable.

In another project that was the focus of discussion, almost 900 wolves and other non-target animals were killed in Alberta, Canada (please also see and and), to try to save woodland caribou (it didn’t work) and not only were families broken up but there also are trans-generational effects. Simply put, far too many other animals are harmed or killed because we move into their homes and they have nowhere else to go and thus, they, innocent victims, become the “problems.” It’s a no-win situation for millions of other animals and we need to do much better so the killing stops.

Compassionate conservation meets Cecil the slain lion

It was also rather timely, and of course incredibly sad, that news about the thoroughly unnecessary killing of Cecil the lion(link is external) by Walter Palmer (please also see the numerous articles listed here(link is external) and Jennifer Jacquet’s “The Shaming of Walter Palmer(link is external)“) was making world-wide headlines as the meeting got under way. A few of us received requests for interviews the first morning of the meeting and Cecil was the topic of conversation at a number of talks and also at the coffee breaks, as was Marius, the young giraffe who was mercilessly killed at the Copenhagen Zoo in February 2014, because he didn’t fit into the zoo’s breeding program. Marius us a classic case of an animal who was zoothanized, not euthanized, as claimed by zoo administrators.

Many people are interested in the status and fate of African lions and as I was writing this essay I came across a review of a book called Lions in the Balance: Man-Eaters, Manes, and Men with Guns(link is external) by world renowned lion researcher Dr. Craig Packer(link is external) (the Kindle edition can be found here(link is external)). In the review by Iris Barber(link is external) called “Lions in the Balance: Can hunting save the kings of the jungle?” we learn that Dr. Packer argues, “‘Lions need trophy-hunting just as much as trophy-hunting needs lions.’ His plan: kill only male lions over the age of 6, so cubs aren’t killed by a lion mating with their mother who seeks to safeguard his own progeny. This is a fresh approach to conservation, where hunting is essential to survival.”

While numerous compassionate conservationists would argue against killing lions, when experts like Dr. Packer speaks, it’s highly worthwhile to listen carefully because it makes clear just how complex the issues are. As the book’s description notes, “Packer is sure to infuriate millionaires, politicians, aid agencies, and conservationists alike as he minces no words about the problems he encounters. But with a narrative stretching from far flung parts of Africa to the corridors of power in Washington, DC, and marked by Packer’s signature humor and incredible candor, Lions in the Balance is a tale of courage against impossible odds, a masterly blend of science, adventure, and storytelling, and an urgent call to action that will captivate a new generation of readers.”

Putting an end to dancing bears: All stakeholders count

Another tenet of compassionate conservation is that all stakeholders count, human and nonhuman. Of course, this is very challenging because various animals kill or harm humans or kill or harm animals on whom the livelihoods of humans and their communities depend. In an earlier essay I wrote about two projects in India that stress peaceful coexistence between humans and nonhumans who harm and kill the humans and destroy their businesses. Another excellent example of a project that took into account the interests of humans and nonhumans centered on putting an end to the use of dancing bears, discussed by Kartick Satyanarayan and Geeta Seshamani of the organization Wildlife SOS, India(link is external). The abstract for their talk reads as follows:

“Wildlife SOS spearheaded a conservation success story in India by resolving the barbaric dancing bear practice in which sloth bear cubs were poached from the wild, brutally trained in inhumane ways and spent their short tragic lives at the end of a four foot rope dragged through towns and villages to earn for the indigent, nomadic community called the Kalandars. Wildlife SOS’s initiative was to both rehabilitate the sloth bears held in captivity and the Kalandars themselves in alternative livelihoods. This in turn made a huge difference to the sloth bear population in the wild helping in its conservation.

“Compassionate Conservation and sustainability of wildlife and forests was the focus of the program which is still ongoing. Wildlife SOS also works with human-animal conflict situations similarly aiming for compassionate conservation and rehabilitation measures which educate the stakeholders, such as the villagers or dwellers around a forested area, in avoidance behavior.

“The education awareness programs are run in Maharashtra where the conflict species is the leopard and in Kashmir where the conflict species is the black bear and in Delhi and Agra the program deals with the rhesus macaque which seems to be the species humans have declared war on. Attempts at resolution involve creating safe spaces for the animals (rehabilitation centres) teaching people behaviours which do not lead to confrontation with the animals in question (awareness and education) but most importantly to inculcate a feeling for the animals in question emphasizing adjustment and acceptance of the existence of wildlife close to our human habitations. Our work with captive elephants is yet another conservation attempt at bringing down an ancient Indian traditional bastion that emphasizes training elephants using pain, fear and physical abuse by replacing it with compassion.

“Our training school – the kindness school provide straining to elephant keepers on modern and humane elephant management systems, compassionate handling, replacing negative management with positive reinforcement. However conservation also demands use of the law so the Wildlife SOS Anti-Poaching enforcement unit works to gatherintelligence on wildlife traffickers and smugglers and enforces the law working in partnership with the Indian Government.

“Compassionate conservation is the key to the future ahead of us.”

Another wonderful project in which human and nonhuman interests were taken into account and satisfied was concerned with how to deal non-lethally with “problem” raccoons at a fast food restaurant in Vancouver. Dr. Sara Dubois, who works with theBritish Columbia SPCA(link is external), outlined various strategies for coming to terms with urban “pests.” She noted, “The overall goal of developing humane standards for nuisance wildlife control is to create an educational and enforcement tool, setting a higher bar for control measures, whether they are done for conservation or nuisance purposes.”

The coming of age of compassionate conservation: It’s a “sad bad” if killing is the only viable option for “peaceful” coexistence

The field of compassionate conservation is slowly coming of age and it’s essential that all opinions come to the table to be discussed. Ethicist Bill Lynn, who supported the experimental humane killing of a few thousand barred owls to try to save endangered snowy owls, called this practice a “sad good.” While it may be a “sad good” for the snowy owls, it’s surely not for the slaughtered barred owls. I would call it a “sad bad” for the barred owls and many other animals if killing remains the only option. A “sad good” is a very slippery slope that sets a lamentable precedent for opening the door for the more widespread “experimental killing” of barred owls and other species just to see if it works.

Compassionate conservation requires a large change in heart and practices, and like any other revolutionary paradigm shift it will take time. Many hope that this most needed paradigm shift in conservation biology that entails stopping the killing “in the name of conservation” will endure its growing pains as more and more researchers and others realize that killing is not the answer. I hope those who see the “real world” as mandating killing will change their minds and hearts. Future and young researchers are critical to the development and implementation of compassionate conservation, as are those careerconservation officers, zoo administrators, and researchers who come to realize that using “the most humane killing” is not what compassionate conservation is all about. I like to imagine a world where killing is no longer part of the conservationist’s toolkit. The welfarist calculus patronizes other animals and when push comes to shove, or often when it’s merely convenient, the nonhumans suffer and are killed when it’s determined that the benefits to humans outweigh the costs to the animals.

It’s time to put away the guns, the traps, the snares, the poisons, and other “weapons of mass destruction” (as a few attendees called them) and figure out how to live in peaceful coexistence with the fascinating animals with whom we’re supposed to share our most magnificent planet. There does not have to be blood. I dedicated my talk to Cecil the lion and also to Bryce Casavant, a most courageous conservation officer who refused to kill two black bear cubs (link is external)near Port Hardy on northern Vancouver Island and was suspended because he said “no.” More people simply have to say “no” to killing other animals. We need to stop the violence and recognize that “The world becomes what we teach(link is external).” Compassion begets compassion and violence begets violence. By rewilding our hearts(link is external)and by becoming re-enchanted and reconnecting with nature I like to think that the killing will come to an end, slow as it may be.

If some people argue the killing cannot stop, it will not stop. It saddens me to think that we’ve gotten to the point where for some, killing is the only viable option for peaceful coexistence. Shame on us. As Kartick Satyanarayan and Geeta Seshamani concluded, “Compassionate conservation is the key to the future ahead of us.” I couldn’t agree more. We need to leave our comfort zones and think and act “outside of the box.”

The next meeting that will focus on compassionate conservation is slated for 2017 in Sydney, Australia. I often say that compassionate conservation is a wonderful meeting place for people who would otherwise not, but should, meet. This was so in Vancouver and I anticipate this will be the case in Sydney. Please stay tuned for more information on this future gathering and the exciting, challenging, and forward-looking field of compassionate conservation in general.

Note: I just learned of an essay titled “Mutant Animals Bred to be Brutally Killed by Hunters(link is external)” in which the person offering up these freaks outlandishly claims, “Conservation is a by-product of what I do.”

Marc Bekoff’s latest books are Jasper’s story: Saving moon bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservationWhy dogs hump and bees get depressed, and Rewilding our hearts: Building pathways of compassion and coexistenceThe Jane effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson) has recently been published. (marcbekoff.com; @MarcBekoff)

Source Psychology Today

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WODCW Blogs on this topic Wild Animals Belong In Our Hearts and Minds: A concept that our government wildlife agencies need to learnCompassion is the Catalyst for Change ‘RIP Cecil 2002 – 2015′Trophy Hunting Under the Guise of “Conservation”