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Can We Make Peace, Not War, With Invasive Species?

Can We Make Peace, Not War, With Invasive Species?

Woe to the descendants of animals who, brought from one country into another, have found themselves dubbed “invasive species.” A vast reserve of poisons, traps, even firearms have been marshaled into service to eradicate them. Island nations, which harbor a population of native wildlife of rich diversity, have found themselves having to resort to such measures. But might there be more humane alternatives?

Australia has brought in sharpshooters with guns to thin out its population of wild camels, the largest in the world. The U.S. government is planning to drop toxic, dead mice on Guam to kill off millions of brown tree snakes; these have eaten up so many birds that the spider population on the island has exploded. The entire population of feral cats on Ascension Island in the south Atlantic Ocean was killed to make it possible for one of the rarest seabirds in the world, the frigatebird, to have a chance at survival.

On New Zealand, a country the size of Colorado, economist Gareth Morgan raised a huge outcry when he called for the killing of cats. His aim was to make New Zealand safe again for the many, many native species of birds whose numbers have dwindled.

It is not only cats who the country wants to rid itself of but, as The Atlantic details, a full range of immigrant animals, “pests,” including rabbits, rats, weasels, stoats, goats, deer, hedgehogs and possums. Some 30 million of the last-mentioned inhabit New Zealand. The marsupials are originally from Australia where, across the Tasman Sea, the†mountain brushtail possum is considered enough of a rarity that it can been seen at the Australia Zoo for special “possum encounters.” Possums born and raised in New Zealand are more likely to find themselves in “encounters” with motor vehicles.

Should animal “pests” be dealt with as a pestilence? †As Kate Littin, an animal welfare advisor to New Zealand’s government, says, “Just because they’re a pest doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned with minimizing their distress.” As noted in the The Atlantic,

Littin wants the example her country sets for the world to be one of “compassionate conservation.” After researching the effects of the poisons used on rats and possums, she helped come up with a†framework of relative humaneness for pest control that’s now being used on rabbits across Australia. “It’s not a revolution,” she said. “But it’s an evolution.”

It might be “easier” and more “convenient” to take out the poison and the bullets, but rather than trying to eradicate invasive species as cheaply as possible, the†framework that Littin cites asks that we keep the pain and suffering of animals — non-native and, of course, native — at the forefront and seek ways to minimize and avoid causing them undue distress.

The†framework only has a few “more humane” suggestions (fencing, live trapping) for dealing with invasive species. But it does offer another, ethically driven way of considering an issue that is not going away. It is hardly the possums’, or the camels’, or the cats’, or any non-native species’, fault that they are the “resident aliens” of the countries they call home.

Related Care2 Coverage

Australia Has Largest Camel Population Ė And is Set on Killing Them

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93 comments

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8:55PM PDT on May 15, 2013

Thank you.

8:55PM PDT on May 15, 2013

Thank you.

8:54PM PDT on May 15, 2013

Thank you.

12:56AM PDT on Apr 29, 2013

thank you for sharing

10:50AM PDT on Apr 20, 2013

thanks for sharing

10:32AM PDT on Mar 27, 2013

Please reference post from Eternal G......................nuff said.

7:14PM PDT on Mar 25, 2013

Most invasive species on earth... that would be humans right?!

8:20AM PDT on Mar 17, 2013

......Continued......You either ARE humane and DO like ALL animals or you don't. One of the biggest threats to animals today, barring the typical ones like habitat destruction, is the fact that we CHOOSE to love certain ones and hence fight for them; but despise others and thus do little to nothing to help it.
We're not invasive, just colonisers. We are, however, filled with a lot of greed that stops us from sharing or, most importantly, using less.
Most of us are blissfully unaware of how damaging to the environment things like our demand for out of season vegetables are to this planet we apparently love so much.
Everything we do costs this planet part of its life. Would you not want to do the right thing to keep it alive for your children; even if it meant doing something you don't like?

8:18AM PDT on Mar 17, 2013

I always marvel at how people (who profess to humaneness, no killing and peace to all) can talk in such a way about another human being that, should they act upon those words, would be thrown in jail. Where is your humanity exactly?
It is never an easy thing to do or say and there are literally hundreds of thousands of articles similar to the above one. Each specific case is dealt with as a separate entity and with different control measures and outcomes. Poison is NEVER a good idea but sadly, sometimes, it is a workable idea.
The fact remains that if we did not step in and do something about it, islands would have nothing but cats on it. Then when we see them eating each other and dying of malnutrition and starvation, people will be screaming about the inhumanity and cruelty; how ironic!
We forever expect a control on the human life, those doing so knowing full well that the world can only sustain so many people. I have even seen a lot of writers screaming for the culling of humans! Will you go first? Of course not. A human life will always mean more than an animal’s life, and so it should. That doesn't mean that we should be heartless towards all animals. It seems we can be quick to get rid of a cockroach or beetle, but don't mention killing a cat or possum.

5:49AM PDT on Mar 12, 2013

so who feels like going to NZ and catching feral ferrets and wild stoats? with sleepy darts and not dogs that were breed to kill said type of animals.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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