7 principles for ethical decision making in wildlife management

February 20, 2017

A globally diverse panel of 20 experts in wildlife conservation, management and welfare, including WildCRU’s Dr Sandra Baker, have produced the first international principles for ethical decision-making in wildlife management.

The work took place through a process of facilitated engagement at a 2-day forum in Vancouver, hosted by the British Columbia SPCA and the University of British Columbia. The experts, from seven countries, agreed to an interdependent and step-wise set of 7 principles for managing human-wildlife conflict. In brief these are: 1) modify human practices when possible; 2) justify the need for control; 3) have clear and achievable outcome-based objectives; 4) cause the least harm to animals; 5) consider community values and scientific information; 6) include long-term systematic management; and 7) base control on the specifics of the situation.

The forum particularly highlighted the importance of making decisions to control wildlife based on the specifics of each human-wildlife conflict case, rather than just because an animal is generically labelled as a “pest”.

Sandra Baker explains, “Too often wildlife management is undertaken as a matter of routine, or as a knee-jerk reaction, rather than as a result of proper consideration of the scale and cause of the perceived conflict, and the likely outcome of the management action employed”.

The systematic process provided by the principles will help potential managers to decide whether and how to manage human-wildlife conflict situations.”

Dr Sara Dubois, lead author of the study adds, “The seven principles recognize both the legitimacy of the concerns people have in human-wildlife conflict situations, as well as the importance of protecting animals from unnecessary pain and suffering.”

Approaching the topic from a global perspective and examining wildlife conflicts from around the world was a key factor allowing us to develop principles that can be universally applied.”

The study was led by Dr Sara Dubois Chief Scientific Officer at the BC SPCA, and is available through early view at: Dubois S. et al. 2017. International consensus principles for ethical wildlife control. Conservation Biology