Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Does Culling Actually Encourage Poaching Of Endangered Species?

...This policy is consistent with conservation practices in Norway, Sweden and Finland, too. Part of this protocol stems from human behavior: if a cull was not allowed, the argument goes, farmers and ranchers would take matters into their own hands, and kill wolves illegally. By allowing legal killing of targeted “problem” individuals, illegal killing of wolves in general is reduced. But does this work in practice? Today, a study was published in the highly respected journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, that proposed to test this argument (ref). The two authors, ecologist Guillaume Chapron, Associate Professor at the Grimsö Wildlife Research Station at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and Adrian Treves, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin, analyzed data that tracked how wolf population sizes in Wisconsin and Michigan changed between 1995 and 2012 — a period of time when culling was first banned, then allowed, and then banned again, for a total of 12 times. The authors developed a mathematical model that related these reported population changes to changes in the legal status of wolf culls, and found that wolf population growth slowed more than expected when culling was legal. “Each time the state had the authority to cull wolves, we found a decrease in the population growth of wolves”, said Professor Treves in a statement. He also noted that average population growth decreased from 16% to 12% of the annual growth during periods of culling. But why? Obviously, the wolves weren’t anticipating a cull and leaving the state in droves, nor were their populations so dense that their reproduction rate decreased. Since the authors had eliminated these variables, there was one remaining possibility: the authors attributed this decreased population growth to poaching. “The political message that government sends when wolves are no longer protected is enough to increase poaching”, argued Professor Treves...more

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