Depending on where you live, there can be a great deal of concern about the local animals, wandering into the road or eating your garbage. For conservationists, there’s a concern for the animals themselves. Conservationists and wildlife managers these days are looking for new ways to protect wild animals and minimize their conflicts with humans.
In a recent study published in Conservation Biology, coauthor Emilie Edelblutte asserts that the solution to this might be something called animal agency.
What is an animal agency?
This is essentially the recognition of certain animal rights, acknowledging their complexity, individuality, and behaviors which we need to consider.
“Instead of treating wildlife as objects to be managed, we can look to animals’ behaviors, letting their actions, personalities, group decisions, and relations to humans illuminate better ways to help preserve their populations. In this way, animals can be seen as partners in their own conservation,” Edelblutte wrote in Boston University’s The Brink.
Animals living with and benefiting humans
Her work builds on existing research showing animals adapting around or influencing human behavior, for instance bottlenose dolphins in Brazil developing mutually beneficial foraging practices around fishing boats. In Bulgaria, brown bears and humans often have conflict-free encounters due to their mutual trust developed over time. Nunavik Inuit communities essentially recognize beluga whales as another kind of people and have thus helped to conserve their populations for generations.
Edelblutte acknowledges that animal agency is still budding in Western conservationism. There has been an enormous success for those that have taken it on, such as using beavers to help manage watershed and wetland development or allowing seagulls to make nests in buildings in Amsterdam. Funds were just made available for the construction of wildlife crossings all across the United States to help animals cross busy roads and reduce traffic collisions for motorists.
While many steps need to be taken in policy, ecology, and our own culture, the animal agency is an important step to take toward retaining our planet’s biodiversity.
Source Study: The Society for Conservation Biology (wiley.com)