The gospel according to conservationists

Matthew Godson

 

Advances in Conservation Through Sustainable Use of Wildlife offers a full collection of edited papers presented at the related 2016 conference in Brisbane.

The Conservation Through Sustainable Use of Wildlife forum, hosted by the University of Queensland, and financially supported by the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia, followed on from a convention held more than 20 years earlier of similar name. The foreword of this publication outlines the why’s and the context of sustainable use of wildlife that has been carried via these two summits

Globally wildlife biodiversity has declined at an increasing rate for several decades. The primary causes of this waning all relate to human activities. This being the case, many conservationists have been asking: “Is it beyond the wit and resources of humans to address these declines?” One of the solutions proposed as part of a strategy to tackle these trends was the sustainable use of wildlife whereby attaching a value, either economic, recreational, or aesthetic, would improve the probability that a species or population would be conserved. This is the so-called “use it or lose it” philosophy and that has been under discussion since at least the 1970s.

In February 1994 the University of Queensland hosted the inaugural conference on Conservation Through Sustainable Use of Wildlife with the aim of examining how this approach could be applied to real world situations for the benefit of wildlife.

This proactive outlook was recognised in 1990 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who stated that “ethical, wise and sustainable use of some wildlife can provide an alternative or supplementary means of productive land use, and can be consistent with and encourage conservation, where such use is in accordance with adequate safeguards”.

That 1994 conference attracted a great assortment of delegates with the intention of stimulating further public debate and involving more people in the sustainable use of wildlife for conservation. One of the outcomes was a book of the proceedings. That book was a major contribution to the advancement of the paradigm of sustainable use of wildlife.

Yet biodiversity continued to decline. So, has sustainable use of wildlife not fulfilled its promise? More than 20 years later a group of scientists and other people actively involved in wildlife management came together to explore the question: “Has there been progress in the sustainable use of wildlife in Australia?” Speakers from the 1994 gathering were asked to review progress in their field of expertise in the status of sustainable use of wildlife for conservation in their respective countries. Other speakers were also sought from stakeholder groups providing arguments for and against the concept of sustainable use as an appropriate and effective management tool to halt the decline in wildlife biodiversity.

For the three days of the 2016 conference there were 51 presentations. More than 300 people attended. A total of 10 presentations came from speakers who appeared at the 1994 occasion. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about topics including rewilding, habitat and landscape scale studies on game and its management, the importance of farmers and the impacts of fences.  The critical role of animal welfare, social licence to operate and public perception for successful sustainable use of wildlife were also discussed.

Renowned American conservationist, the late Aldo Leopold, claimed – as was heard many times during the symposium – sustainable use is about wildlife (in its many forms); land, whether public or held by the private sector; and people with all of the social and cultural aspects that humans impose on wildlife and their management.  Feedback collected at the conference concluded that the congress achieved its goals and the consensus was that we shouldn’t wait another two decades before airing this issue again. Delegates considered that more frequent meetings would highlight those involved in managing wildlife through sustainable use and allow broader discussion regarding contemporary approaches. Public forums such as these would greatly assist in informing and bringing the broader community along on the journey.

This book contains edited versions of the papers presented at the 2016 event. The conference sought to address seven main topics. Those were: human dimensions of sustainable use; wild resource management; wildlife policy and regulation; use and control of vertebrate pests; non-consumptive sustainable use; sustainable indigenous use of wildlife; and wildlife trade and commercial use.

Keynote speakers at the conference included:

● Professor Grahame Webb, Managing Director, Wildlife Management International
● Emeritus Professor Gordon Grigg, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland
● Dr Bidda Jones, Chief Science and Strategy Officer, RSPCA Australia
● Dr Nicholas Aebischer, Deputy Director of Research, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, UK
● Scott Petrie, CEO, Delta Waterfowl Foundation and Adjunct Professor, Western University
● Teresa Dent CBE, Chief Executive, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, UK
● Dr Anthony Pople, Principal Scientist, Biosecurity Queensland, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
● Adjunct Professor Peter Bridgewater, Institute of Applied Ecology and Institute of Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra
● Professor Brian Reilly, Department of Nature Conservation, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
● Emeritus Professor Anthony Sinclair, University of British Columbia, Canada

The book can be purchased for $94.95 from here. Students are entitled to receive a $20 discount by calling 02 8805 3900 to order over the phone. Great Australian Outdoors happily covers your shipping costs to anywhere in Australia.

*The third conference is to be held in Brisbane in 2021. Go to cwrt.org.au

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