Would you be paid to "tolerate" ISIS? No. This is why we can't rely on economic benefits to tolerate predators

Human-wildlife conflict is increasing globally due to rising human populations, increased habitat destruction and improved conservation policies.  "Solving" this problem has become a goal for many conservationists across the world.  Many of the solutions proposed have been based on reducing the cost of damage inflicted on people living with dangerous wildlife.

Whilst some studies have indeed shown that paying compensation, providing livestock guarding dogs, putting up protective fencing and the likes have apparently increased attitudes towards damage-causing wildlife and reducing reported livestock losses, people are still reporting more human-wildlife conflict.  Clearly, mitigation techniques are either not being widely used or they are not as effective as once thought.  Why is this?

I often imagine that some farmers think of predators as terrorists.  This may seem preposterous, but actually some ranchers in the US have indeed compared wolves to Saddam Hussein:



If farmers really do think that predators are terrorists, imagine just how ridiculous it would sound to them to be offered money (some may call this bribes) to "tolerate" predators.  But that is exactly what many conservation initiatives are doing all around the world.

Imagine this: you have spent your entire life being taught by your family, friends and neighbours that predators are bad, that they are dangerous, they kill your livestock and your pets, they threaten your livelihood, they kill for fun, they're bloodthirsty, they have no morals, they are pure evil, that they must be controlled and destroyed, etc. etc. Then along comes a predator biologist who has some fancy degree from some fancy university and clearly does not know what it's like to live and work on a farm.  This person tells you that you can't kill predators any more because the people in towns far away from here like seeing them when they go on holiday here and that predators are somehow "vital" to the ecosystem.  They tell you that they can either pay you for the damage caused by predators, offer you a job working with predators or build a school for your kids that's funded by the money brought in from predator conservation.  What is your reaction?

Now imagine this:  you have spent your entire life being taught by your family, friends and neighbours that terrorists are bad, that they are dangerous, they kill people, they threaten your livelihood, they kill for fun, they're bloodthirsty, they have no morals, they are pure evil, that they must be controlled and destroyed, etc. etc. Then along comes a terrorist sympathiser who has some fancy degree from some fancy university and clearly does not know what it's like to live and work in an area threatened by terrorists.  This person tells you that your country is not allowed to kill terrorists any more.  They tell you that they can either pay you for the damage caused by terrorists, offer you a job working with terrorists or build a school for your kids that's funded by the money brought in from terrorism.  What is your reaction?

This comparison may seem extreme, but as noted above, some ranchers really do feel that predators are just as dangerous to them as terrorists.  This is not as absurd as it may seem.

If we think about the deaths caused by terrorism in the US compared with US-citizen-caused gun violence (in case you didn't know, in 2013, 21 Americans were killed by terrorists; 33,636 by US gun violence), one may conclude that Americans are far more dangerous than terrorists.  But most of us don't think that, do we?  So why should farmers think that just because disease might be far more deadly than predators, they should refocus their attention from predators to veterinary disease?

Money may be a motivating factor in many decisions, but it is less so when it comes to making a decision that goes against your ideologies and values.

Imagine this: you are an anti-abortionist and you're pregnant.  A pro-abortionist tells you they'll pay you to have an abortion.  Would you do it?
How about if you're a militant vegan and someone offers you a job working in a factory farm.  Would you take it?
Or how about if you're a Palestinian who's parents have been killed by Israelis and the Israelis build a school for your kids.  Would you send your kids to it?

We cannot just assume that money solves everything - especially when it comes to questioning someone's ideology.  This mass oversimplification is insulting and crude.  

Humans are complex beings.  We are not only ruled by money.  We need to move away from this parochial mantra that "locals need to benefit financially from wildlife if they are to conserve it".  Yes, of course, money can help.  But not if you're so anti-predator that you would see taking money from these conservationists as a bribe and as the conservationists and predators winning, and therefore as a kick in the face to your values.

And this is why conservation cannot survive with ecologists and economists alone.

Hello, conservation.  Here is social science *waves* We're here to help you.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Styes, sleepless nights and swear words

Against trophy hunting but a meat-eater = hypocrite?

Quantity does not always mean quality