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User Icon     Posted on Jul 28, 2020     by Jim Hook     

Re-wilding or selective extermination?

We live in a very vocal world where people can shout loud using the plethora of social media platforms now available to exponentially amplify their voice. We seem to have moved into a time where it’s a case of ‘survival of the most social media savvy’ rather than ‘survival of the fittest’.

Re-wilding is a headline that comes up time and time again. It is heralded as a cause for good, to help rectify the wrongs generally accepted as inflicted by humans on nature. Furthermore, to me at least, it seems to have a conflicting agenda as the crusade to re-wild areas often goes hand in hand with removing all perceived invasive species. How can eradicating one species to allow the return of another be the right thing to do? Darwin’s theory of evolution will, I suspect, always win out so if you try to reset the clock you will only create a new version of history where the weak flounder and a new stronger animal survives. Don’t get me wrong, its not that I don’t want to see species supported and helped along the way but I just don’t think it should be done through the complete eradication of another. Management of a landscape and environment might support both populations, you don’t have to look far for many examples, just go and ask a game keeper.

Science apparently tells us that ‘x’ is right and ‘y’ is wrong. However, let’s just consider the validity and perceived superiority of scientists over mother nature for a moment. The underlying principle of science is to disprove another scientist’s theory to try and refine the reality. This is achieved by repeated testing and verification of theories using accepted experimental practices. We only have to look back in our very short history to see where scientists have got it wrong time and time again, but that’s understandable as that is the process to achieve the correct conclusion. However, that means that the vast majority of scientific theories are going to be wrong with only the latest theory being correct (for the time being!). In order for science to be respected and successful it has to be objective in how it researches and tests it's theories. To have an ‘agenda’, or conflict of interest, when conducting research not only undermines the topic under investigation but the entire premise that science is truth. The impact of subjective science was clearly visible in the medical scandal when Dr Andrew Wakefield claimed to have scientific evidence that MMR was linked to autism!

It is understandable, but unfortunate, that wildlife and nature generate such emotive feelings in all human beings and as a result increases the potential to support a predisposition to a perceived higher moral code by some scientists.

Science tells us that the Earth is currently 4.6 billon years old and has about another 4.6 billion years to go until it is destroyed by the sun. One thing is for certain, the human race will have long since disappeared by the time the Earth evaporates. Our entire timeline of existence won’t even be comparable to the blink of an eye to the lifetime of our wonderful planet, and mother nature probably won’t even remember our very short visit. In fact, I think our entire existence to date equates to just under 24 hours if the Earth was 1 year old. We will be lucky to see another 24 hours!

<p>The New Zealand DoC want the Tahr to leave as its been there 150 years less than European settlers!</p>

The New Zealand DoC want the Tahr to leave as its been there 150 years less than European settlers!

So what’s my point? Well, I felt compelled to write this piece due to the current plan of the Department of Conservation in New Zealand to effectively eradicate Tahr, as it is seen as an invasive species, in preference for other ‘native’ species of fauna and flora. This is re-wilding, not through the re-introduction of previous native species but in the eradication of a perceived invasive species that’s only been on the islands for a mere 116 years. Europeans only started to settle in New Zealand some 150 years before that so in the grand scheme of things they could be called an invasive species themselves. A bigger time difference example is that of feral goats in Scotland. These were first introduced in the Neolithic era some 5000 years ago and are now seen as invasive albeit naturalised! Again, contradictorily, a huntress photographed shooting one of these in 2018 was vilified by a Scottish government minister whose SNP party actively seeks to cull the invasive ‘non-native’ species. Likewise, elsewhere in the UK, the RSPB villainies species, such as Orkney stoats, that they see as a threat to certain birds and justify complete eradication programs which they see as a measured response – again one species is prioritised over another.

<p>A feral Scottish 'invasive' highland goat - its only been there 5000 years!</p>

A feral Scottish 'invasive' highland goat - its only been there 5000 years!

<p>A stoat that the RSPB says doesn't have the right to live on Orkney!</p>

A stoat that the RSPB says doesn't have the right to live on Orkney!

Don’t get me wrong, management of wildlife is essential in the modern world where the order of the food chain has changed over our history, either because of human expansion or nature's evolution, and where the space for animals has diminished. Space is fast becoming a problem for humans as well, but no one ever dares start that discussion as it would likely mean political (or celebrity) suicide! Surely, the way forward is management that supports a harmony for all species and not the prioritisation of one over the absolute existence of another. Evolutionary change is inevitable but trying to forcefully change nature is futile and unachievable. We are all invasive species at the end of the day, it just depends on what date in history denotes ‘invasive’, but considering we have only been here for 24 hours I don’t think we have the right to throw stones – we should ask the sea sponge what it thinks as its been here for 760 million years and its answer might well be more informed than those making the decisions right now!

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