Living in a place lauded for its natural beauty and rich wildlife, British Columbians take pride in their great outdoors. So when it comes to protecting and preserving the wild animals that live in B.C., passions can leave people divided.
Take the debate over the cull of wolves –hunters and some experts argue killing wolves helps preserve moose populations, supports sustainable hunting and promotes biodiversity. While animal protectionists rail against this position, focusing instead on the suffering of individual animals, the method of killing and the ethics of the cull.
But the debate over human threats to wildlife doesn’t have to be polarizing, suggests new research from UBC.
Using a targeted online survey, more than 350 B.C. residents – including government officials, biologists, conservationists, animal protectionists and the general public – were asked to rate the level of harm caused by a variety of human activities that impact wildlife.
The results surprised Sara Dubois, who conducted the survey as part of her doctoral studies in UBC’s Animal Welfare Program.
“Both sets of participants – those focused mostly on conservation, and those mostly focused on animal welfare — agreed independently that the biggest harms to wildlife are development, pollution, and agriculture,” she says. “There is agreement that the bigger picture stuff – habitat loss, pollution – is hurting wildlife more than hunting or vehicle collisions.”
Dubois says the results show the potential for common ground to be reached between the different segments of the public, who are often pitted against one another.
She notes her research will help her in her job as Chief Scientific Officer for the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) where she aims to find humane solutions to wildlife dilemmas while working with the public and experts , as co-operation between the two can prove challenging.