Killing wolves won’t save the caribou

Editor, The Times

Editor, The Times:

We now live in “the Sixth Great Extinction,” distinguished by the greatest loss of biological species since the disappearance of the dinosaur. Sadly, 99 per cent of today’s species-at-risk are endangered due to human activity, particularly habitat loss.

In this light, consider the BC government’s plan to rescue the mountain caribou by killing wolves. The Horgan government has even been so bold as to send its messengers out to sell this plan to unwary members of the public

To give credit where credit is due, it takes a good bit of pseudoscience to develop this sophistry to the point where it can fool, at least, some of the people. However, Big Industry and its “think tanks” are always ready to lend a hand. The government plans to kill 80 per cent of the wolves in the so-called “caribou recovery areas.”

Never mind that informed observers say, repeatedly, that logging, resource development, road building, and motorized recreation are the real causes of the caribou’s decline.

Nature isn’t as simple as government and industry would have us believe. More finesse is required — a lot more than spending $47 million for airborne snipers, to take down the wolves.

In the Spiti Valley of Northern India, things are very different. At issue was the survival of a local predator, the Snow Leopard. Let’s face it, the snow leopard can be a pest where Himalayan villagers are concerned. In the Spiti, these villagers wreak a living from a high elevation desert environment, which is no easy job.

Typically, they cultivate fields in the valley bottom. They also raise sheep, donkeys and other domestic species. Hungry snow leopards can interfere, but the villagers and conservation groups knew that action was required. The Buddhist culture of the Spiti embraces compassion toward all creatures, particularly those in distress. Buddhists frown on killing.

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In the Spiti, women do most of the agricultural work. It was they who expressed the greatest concern for the plan because restoring the snow leopard population required a reduction in cultivated land. This was needed to provide more food for the Blue Sheep, which is at the top of the snow leopard’s menu. Negotiation was required.

In the end, the blue sheep got more pasture, the leopards got more blue sheep and the villagers also got benefits to offset the reduction in cropland. They got more organizational support, crop insurance and, the women got help in the making and selling of handicrafts. The animals flourished. Tourism, based on snow leopard observation, created jobs for the youth, as guides. The result was a win-win for everyone, all due to saving the leopard.

Predators, like wolves and snow leopards, are an essential part of healthy ecosystems. Enhancing their numbers may seem counter-intuitive, rarely appealing to a knee-jerk response, but ensuring the healthy numbers of these animals can be done without compromising other species, as long as the real causes of population decline are dealt with.

In this period of species extinction, the BC government has to stop killing wolves. It has to quit being an industry puppet and it has to address the real causes of caribou decline and take appropriate action.

David Simms,

Clearwater, BC

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