Captive Wildlife: A Predictable Biological and Commercial Failure

Captive Wildlife: A Predictable Biological and Commercial Failure

by Darrel Rowledge (Preventive Safety Research Inc. Calgary) Wise observers have repeatedly warned of emerging challenges to our species and the biosphere that sustains it. Examples include Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress and Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Some view current threats as so overwhelming as to be unsolvable. Yet the issues are no more complex than many of our disciplines; and we face complicated, life-and-death challenges every day. We’ve split atoms and built super computers that will fit in a pocket. Well-trained airline pilots use a rigorous checklist before takeoff to minimize the risk of disaster. Doctors are well educated and employ comprehensive diagnoses and rigorous follow-up… But if we have the capacity to understand, and the tools avoid pending threats, why are we failing? The simplified answer is that many of the factors causing the challenges (like short term greed) also afflict our electoral and legislative decision processes. Consider the effect: where the career performance of a pilot or doctor can affect tens or even hundreds of thousands of lives, in many instances policy decisions affect tens or hundreds of millions. Yet our legislators often have little training in policy analysis, and their decision processes are increasingly sketchy, seriously lacking in due diligence, and are often conducted behind closed doors. One example is the policy recently threatening North American wildlife, through initiatives to farm and exploit ‘captive wildlife’ for private profit. Wildlife was long established as a public resource, a vital “public systems asset,” and the core of one of the world’s greatest known examples of sustainable development. Schemes to...
CWD – The Conservation Fight of Our Lives

CWD – The Conservation Fight of Our Lives

“That’s the disturbing part. We don’t seem to learn. We Chickens have come home to roost. Again. We behave as if actions don’t have consequences, even though the whole coming home to roost thing, is a long-accepted warning against reckless behaviour. So here we are, constructing a call to arms for what will almost certainly be the conservation fight of our lives…against an ominous, self-inflicted threat.” ~ Alberta Outdoorsmen   Before diving in, note that it’s not so much the proverbial chickens we’re worried about, as it is their little passengers, like H1N1, a virus with an informative history. H1N1 is the strain of influenza that, so far this season, has infected several thousand Canadians, hospitalized hundreds, and killed at least sixty—mostly strong, healthy adults. It used to be centuries, or generations between such outbreaks, but it’s a mere handful of years since the 2009 H1N1 epidemic that killed 428 Canadians, along with almost 300,000 people world-wide. These, however, pale in comparison to this virus’ maiden attack. The great flu epidemic of 1918 killed more people in twenty-five weeks than AIDS has in twenty-five years! H1N1 first emerged on chicken farms, jumped to people, went from us to pigs, then back to people. Or, it may have gone from chickens directly to pigs, and then to us… that jury’s still out. Either way, intensive conditions allowed it to evolve, become transferable, highly contagious, and quite lethal. This highlights two fundamental facts: 1) Most of our infectious diseases and epidemics come from animals. 2) The role of domestication is profound – we have basically created most of the infectious diseases...
A Growing Threat

A Growing Threat

HOW DEER BREEDING COULD PUT PUBLIC TRUST WILDLIFE AT RISK By James E. Miller Professor Emeritus, Mississippi State University A recent news story in Iowa’s The Gazette began: “Iowa’s first seven cases of chronic wasting disease—all directly related to confined white-tailed deer—have put a bull’s eye on the backs of the state’s deer breeders and the pay-to-shoot facilities they supply” (The Gazette 2012). Less than one month later, Pennsylvania confirmed its first case of CWD, which was traced to a deer farm in Adams County (The Sentinel 2012). And in Indiana, an October 19 news report noted concerns about the spread of CWD after 20 deer escaped from a farm that was breeding trophy bucks for fenced-in private hunting preserves (Indystar.com 2012). That article quoted Indiana’s DNR spokesman as saying the case “underscores the concern many have about how the commercialization of wildlife and interstate trafficking in wildlife presents a Pandora’s Box, with the potential spread of a deadly disease that does have some wide-ranging consequences.” Wide-ranging consequences indeed. The spread of chronic wasting disease from captive deer populations is only one of many potential problems related to the commercialization of Public Trust Wildlife (PTW) resources. Under the guise of promoting “economic development,” thousands of for-profit deer-breeding and canned-shooting operations have proliferated across the nation. Their proponents are aggressively promoting legislation to expand the industry—a trend that has snowballed since 2007. All wildlife professionals who care about wildlife resources should take note—and take action. Such legislation has the potential to shift authority for PTW resources, specifically captive white-tailed deer, away from state fish and wildlife agencies to departments of...