NOTE: This is the last blog for this series written for my degree. Again this blog has been published in other locations however it is all my work. This was published in March 2015, next time on this blog will be an up to date piece.
Life is about decisions. Tea or coffee, barley or wheat, recycle or don’t. The thing that I’ve learnt most over the course of the nature conservation in context module is that making the choice isn’t always the easiest thing.
The Farmers Daughter: Decisions
In farming there are a whole series of choices that have to be made. Each choice can have an effect on the future of the farm and whether the farm as a business survives. Spring on our farm means lots and lots of little lambs. Lambing season alone comes with decisions that often mean life or death. For example just last week we had a ewe that was struggling with one large lamb and the choice is this, do you get the vet out to do an emergency caesarean, do you carry on helping the ewe yourself or do you let the ewe and lamb die. As harsh as that last option is it sometimes happens. In this case we had the vet out, the caesarean cost £140 plus VAT. The lambs and ewe both died the next day. In the cold light of day you can look at that and say well that was £140 spent with no net gain. Although it isn’t all about money.
In conservation there are another whole set of choices that have to be made. George Orwell once wrote in his novel Animal Farm in 1945 that “ALL animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” It’s one of the trickiest questions conservationists have to answer is what species do we put our efforts into saving. In an idealistic world we would be able to save every species that needed saving but this is not the case. There are many restrictions on conservationists including time, money and legislation that stop conservationists from being able to be the superhero’s of the natural world. This leads to an uncomfortable statement that no one wants to hear. Some species will have to go extinct. In the same way that sometimes you have let a sheep die on the farm. There is just not enough resources and it’s not viable enough to save everything.
Although a sobering topic it is for the best. In conservation by pursuing a single species or a single area and giving it everything to get it to thrive we end up with situations like of the Golden Lion Tamarin monkey or Leontopithecus rosalia for short. These delightful little monkeys come from Brazil and were originally thought to have been extinct but in the 1970s there was only a population of 200 monkeys. With thirty years of conservation efforts the numbers have increased to 1000 monkeys in the wild and many more being bred in captivity and then released (WWF, 2014). Although according to the IUCN red list the monkeys are still endangered and will require a doubling of their species to get off the red list all together (IUCN, 2014). This story and many others show that it is all worth it in the end.
To summarise, decisions are difficult but we make decisions so that the option we do choose has the best odds. This certainly worked out for the Golden Tamarin as well as many other species like the Indian tiger and the great panda. It’s the same back on the farm, although that sheep
and her lambs did not survive there were many more decisions to bottle feed orphan lambs or find them new mothers that benefitted both the lambs and the farmers. To conclude, whether to save a species or not save a species in conservation is a huge question, one that would take a novel per species to decide. Although with the collaboration of policy makers, conservationists and public help it is one that must be decided and who knows maybe after all of my negativity we can be superhero’s and at least try to save it all.
Orwell, G. (1945). Animal Farm. London: Secker and Warburg.
IUCN. (2014). Leontopithecus rosalia. Available: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/11506/0. Last accessed 30/03/2015.
Kransen, J. (2008). Golden Lion Tamarin [Digital Image] Available online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_lion_tamarin#/media/File:Golden_lion_tamarin_portrait3.jpg Last Accessed 30/03/2015
WWF. (2014). Golden Lion Tamarin. Available: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/teacher_resources/best_place_species/back_from_the_brink/golden_lion_tamarin.cfm. Last accessed 30/03/2015.