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Conservation of Wildlife - Conservation strategies - Are they working?

Wildlife management has been practiced for many years, with methods such as directly manipulating populations to increase their numbers, establishing nature reserves and wildlife parks and captivity breeding. Parallel to this, scientists have tried to assess the state of ecosystems relative to what they were in bygone years. New studies are showing that the ecosystems, territorial or aquatic, have changed over the years to such an extent due to consistent human activity, they can never be expected to obtain their original constituents again. Instead of trying to restore ecosystems to their original state, we should focus attention on sustaining the current situation (the new ecosystem dynamics) so that further environmental change can be resisted or reduced. Some damage has been done already, so why not begin from there?  We should not wait for the slate to be squeaky clean.

Studies indicate that with the threat of global warming looming ahead, maintaining the already altered environment is our best chance at conservation. There will come a day when new combinations of animals, plants and habitats will be encouraged. 

Traditional conservation strategies are usually about trying to address one aspect of an ecosystem, like eliminating disease, controlling predators or eliminating invasive species. This may solve one part of the problem but not the problem itself. This is why we need to think in terms of overall effect. To make the ecosystem healthy, we need to deal with it in a much broader way. New approaches such as enhancing genetic diversity can contribute to the health of the whole system. 

A traditional way of preventing bushfires and removing dead vegetation is setting fire to a selected area. Although this fire is controlled, it can still kill small insects and the smoke can be disturbing to some animals. An alternative is to implement a cattle grazing regime. This works well in grasslands, encouraging the growth of fresh plantlets.

Captive breeding is practiced regularly and widely as a component of wildlife management. Endangered species are brought up in a restricted setting controlled by humans, with constant surveillance and monitoring.  Examples of such animals are the Pink Pigeon, Pygmy Hog and Poisson arrow frogs. The success rate for this method has been very high but it’s limited in application- highly mobile groups, like migratory birds and fish, cannot be restored in this way. If the process is not carried out by the book, for example if only very few individuals are chosen for captive breeding, it can reduce genetic diversity. Some believe that animals used for captive breeding are poor seed stock for restoration of wild populations. Another critique is that by reintroducing captive animals into the wild, we risk spreading disease. This has happened with the release of domesticated Desert Tortoises- they spread a respiratory disease to the wild populations.

There are many critics of wildlife management strategies already in place. This is because some see any form of human intervention in wildlife as unethical. 

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