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Wildlife conservation 1

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Sanctuaries Techniques Scientific approach Short-term versus long-term views Conflicting attitudes and issues    

Wildlife conservation - the regulation of wild animals and plants in such a way as to provide for their continuance as a natural resource. The term stands for the husbandry and use of natural resources by the present and succeeding generations. Aesthetic, sporting, economic, and ethical use of landscapes, game, minerals, animals, plants, soils, and water is thus implied in the concept. The term "wildlife conservation" has been used to include an ever-widening group of animals—mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods (such as the lobster), and mollusks (such as the oyster)—and includes plants as well. Certain aesthetically and economically important groups of animals have tended to dominate the list; but it is expanding as values broaden, interest in science grows, and increasingly subtle but important relationships among animals and plants are reported.

Animal-conservation problems vary widely depending on the type of animal (whether, for example, it is exploited primarily for commercial or recreational reasons, whether or not it is free to range over national boundaries) and on the social and economic conditions of various countries. In many countries, game animals are widely hunted by sportsmen, over both private and public lands; thus an outstanding factor in wildlife conservation in such regions is the licensing and supervision of hunters. Game birds and mammals whose migrations take them across national boundaries require an international conservation effort. Marine mammals and fish also present the need for international agreement and legislation because they live in waters that know no national boundaries and are exploited commercially by fishermen from many countries. Small mammals that are trapped for their furs must be protected by domestic laws, but seals are the subject of international agreement. Saltwater fish, exploited mainly for commercial reasons, are protected by international agreement; but the exploiters of freshwater fish, chiefly anglers who fish for recreation (except in such large inland water areas as the Great Lakes), are licensed and controlled domestically.

Ethical considerations appear to occupy a central position in wildlife-conservation thinking, but their development has been delayed by the fact that people for so many generations had to fight against nature. Although primitive people had a far more immediate stake in wildlife than modern people do, it is virtually certain that early humans had little concept of conserving game. The disappearance of the moa and the mammoth taught no lessons; the disappearance of the passenger pigeon did. Convinced of the enormous destructive power of humankind, pioneer conservationists of the early 20th century emphasized the ethical responsibility of their own generation to conserve natural resources for posterity. Modern ecologists perceive that nature is a series of complex biotic communities of which the human species is an interdependent part; a spokesman for conservationists, Aldo Leopold, has argued that the Golden Rule applies to the land and to its animals as well as to people. Thus we find ourselves responsible for the fate of many products of nature, guided by a conservation tradition and code of conduct less than a century old.


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