“Aren’t they one and the same thing?” For quite some time I thought wildlife conservation and animal welfare were concepts that could be used interchangeably. However, I was dead wrong.
Although on the surface it may seem that both wildlife conservation and animal welfare are about saving and protecting furry and feathered creatures… each has a different premise.
Wildlife Conservation can be defined as…
“Wildlife conservation activities relate to the protection of plants and animal species, and their habitats. Conservation efforts are made with a goal to preserve nature, and endangered species for the future generations.” (According to the US legal definition)
“Wildlife conservation is the practice of protecting wild species and their habitats in order to prevent species from going extinct.” (According to Wikipedia)
Animal Welfare is defined as…
“Animal welfare refers to the animal’s physical and mental state. It considers how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress.” (According to Big Cat Rescue)
There is a significant difference.
For the good of the one vs the good of the many
Animal Welfare appears to be about the good of the one, while Wildlife Conservation primarily about the good of the many.
When the two cubs exploited in the lion cub petting industry were rescued and brought to a forever sanctuary in South Africa… that was “animal welfare”. Here two adorable cubs were spared a life of misery and given an opportunity to live as naturally as possible. The attention was on the individual animal and not the entire lion species.
When Lynn and her team of ranger scouts started protecting the Thuma Forest from poachers and the elephants returned… that’s “wildlife conservation”. After just a decade over 140 elephants and other wildlife now call this forest area home. The attention remains on the ecosystem and the entire species of elephants and their habitat.
Now here is a double whammy! When the Bearded Lady (a vulture) was removed from a chicken coop outside the home of a sangoma (witch doctor) that was “animal welfare”. However, this very same bird is now part of a Bearded Vulture breeding program, a crucial “wildlife conservation” effort to save her entire species from extinction.
At times conflicts arise between wildlife conservation and animal welfare and difficult decisions must be made. At times individual animals are lost like the injured giraffe in Botswana. Here preserving a strong gene pool won out over providing medical attention to wounds sustained during a giraffe battle over a female.
Those involved in wildlife conservation and animal welfare may at times be in different camps, but at the end of the day both are needed for the long and short term preservation of nature.
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