Contentious issues in human-wildlife encounters: seeking solutions in a changing social context

Daniel Lunney1,2, Adam Munn3 and Will Meikle4

1Department of Environment and Climate Change NSW, PO Box 1967, Hurstville NSW 2220
2School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150
3Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney 2006.
4Taronga Conservation Society Australia, PO Box 20, Mosman NSW 2088

Wildlife management is, in our view, as much about education, and managing people’s attitudes, as it is about the science of populations of animals. The successful koala management program for Victoria, outlined by Peter Menkhorst, has only been possible because of his firm grasp, and that of his colleagues, of the divergent attitudes towards koalas. Among the many benefits provided to humans by the wildlife resource, we have tackled just one value in this book - recreational. Wildlife can also cause problems for people. Among the negative values of wildlife, we selected but one topic, namely roadkill. The plenary sessions to this forum were filled with interesting details and some provocative challenges, such as that by Des Cooper, “…this discussion is really being conducted with a particular set of assumptions, which are assumptions made by rich, well-to-do people who live in cities…” We need much more of such cut-and-thrust to avoid the narrow viewpoint that is possible from the comfort of mid-city life. On the other hand, do we really think that those in immediate contact with a wildlife problem are always the best informed to manage our wildlife? Arthur White delicately touched a subject that shows just how fast matters are changing. He entitled his paper, “Can I touch that frog?” He asked, “With limited exposure to the natural world will future generations still be prepared to defend global ecosystems?” From the gentle approach of whale-watching and the attention to seals and dolphins, and the careful research that underpinned all the recommendations, to the as yet nearly-impenetrable problem of roadkill, the issue that is central is that of communication. We are not isolated in Australia from world problems, but the converse also applies – our solutions and our communication endeavours can make an international contribution. Harry Recher posed the question in his foreword: “How do you make people care and therefore willing to share with others, and other species?” The authors in this book have made a positive contribution to seeking answers to that question.