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We are delighted to announce that the next issue of Society & Animals (Vol 26, No 2), is a special issue on Wildlife Conservation, guest edited by Monica Ogra and Julie Urbanik.  The issue will be out by end of May.

Following is a summary of the articles featured in the issue:

Kieran O’Mahony, Andrea Corradini, and Andrea Gazzola. Lupine Becomings: Tracking and Assembling Romanian Wolves through Multi-Sensory Fieldwork

‘Lupine Becomings’ describes the practices undertaken by ecologists to more accurately estimate large carnivore populations in Romania. By assembling a variety of different field and lab techniques, the case study offers a multi-modal method of understanding wolves that it is hoped can be developed into a participatory national action plan. However, beyond much best practice reports, the paper itself attempts to demystify and reveal the critical role fieldwork plays in collecting scientific data. By thinking through the human-nonhuman relations and materialities that make up in-situ conservation practices, it aims to highlight the difficulties encountered, and the field skills and emplaced knowledge that are required to improve understandings of protected species. This is important to show policy makers the true value and complexity of ecological data collection, the funding and patience that is required, and the need for support at a time when biodiversity is decreasing and species are increasingly under threat. Furthermore, whilst investment and research priorities are increasingly guided towards new technologies and novel modes of research, field skills and ecological knowledge are frequently still shown to be the foundation of this. Finally, it shows the importance of emphasizing the relational, felt realities of scientific research, rather than erasing this as an unspoken hinterland.

Elizabeth Cherry. Birding, Citizen Science, and Wildlife Conservation in Sociological Perspective

Citizen science describes scientific projects carried out by amateurs. My project investigates the meanings of participation in citizen science for the amateur participants, specifically birders. I found that birders without a background in the natural sciences are skeptical of the utility of their citizen science work, but birders with a scientific background better understand how professional scientists used their data. Existing research has found that professional scientists hold negative perceptions about citizen science because of the need to persuade scientific peers about the effectiveness of such data. However, researchers have found citizen science data to be voluminous, unique, and generally reliable. It is important for professional scientists to clarify to citizen scientists how they use their data. Lists of peer-reviewed publications from citizen science data are insufficient; professional scientists may want to write a short narrative about the utility of citizen science data for their work, to be shared on the websites where citizen scientists submit their data. It is also important for professional scientists to clarify the utility of citizen science to other professional scientists. This can include acknowledging the use of citizen science data and its reliability, validity, and quality in presentations at academic conferences and in publications

Kalli Doubleday. Human-Tiger (Re)Negotiations: A Case Study from Sariska Tiger Reserve

Ecologists are starting to research the impacts of animal personality, on reintroduction success. Participants in this case study eagerly describe the reintroduced tigers at Sariska Tiger Reserve as having individual and collective spatial personalities that differ from the original tigers of Sariska. Local people interpret the differing spatial personalities described of the original and the reintroduced tigers as a reason to resist conservation management and laws designed to protect the reintroduced tigers. This finding challenges dominant conservation practices that operate at the species level without considering perceived inter-species differences as a hindrance to rewilding. This case study highlights the prerequisite for an appreciation of variable human perceptions of particular animal populations rather than assuming that interactions are determined by the species. Reintroducing a species is not reinstating an old human-wildlife relationship but starting a new one. Human-carnivore shared landscapes are accomplished by carnivores’ adaptability to the human element(s) in their landscape over time. Carnivores’ adaptability must be part of the narrative of reintroductions to counter local communities holding to past expectations that this study reveals as compelling and effectual. Future plans for reintroductions should be framed from the beginning as adapting to a new environment— removing expectations of immediate place-understanding.

Lucia Bergós, Florencia Grattarola, Juan Barreneche, Daniel Hernández, and Solana González. Fogones de Fauna: Experience of Participatory Monitoring of Wildlife in Rural Uruguay

The present article contributes to think about the role of Life Sciences towards the empowering of communities. To progress in this direction, it is essential a kind of science that is willing to interact and learn from other forms of knowledge with humbleness. Along with the persistent progress of predatory extractivism over nature within national and international levels, local knowledge and culture also become threatened. The multiple society and nature relationships that arise in the territories end up being devaluated by hegemonic groups and therefore they are silenced and invisibilized. In this context, “Fogones de Fauna” serves as an example to illustrate a participative monitoring experience in a particular rural village in Uruguay, were the interaction of different knowledges converge and the different society-nature relationships are noticed and visualized. Through this example we aim to nourish the critical debate of the consequences of the advancement of scientific knowledge that turns its back on other sources of knowledge.

Erin Luther. Urban Wildlife Organizations and the Institutional Entanglements of Conservation’s Urban Turn

Urban wildlife organizations—which include groups focused on wildlife rehabilitation, rescue, removal, advocacy, education, and conflict resolution—have typically been viewed as out of step with the goals of wildlife conservation because of their focus on encounters with individual animals, common species, and degraded habitats. The recent shift by large conservation NGOs toward a “humans and nature together” framework, because of its focus on urban natures and personal nature experiences, has brought the field into discursive relation with urban wildlife organizations.  Drawing on a case study of four wildlife organizations in an urban center, this research note explores both the opportunities big conservation’s present thematic orientation might bring to these organizations that have struggled for legitimacy in the field, as well as the complications of re-valuing urban wildlife within a conservationist logic.

Taru Peltola and Jari Heikkilä. Outlaws or Protected? DNA, Hybrids, and Biopolitics in a Finnish Wolf-Poaching Case

Conservation is a practice of making space for wildlife in society. Species-based conservation is also a means of legitimizing violence against some non-humans, e.g. hybrids that may compromise the genetic purity of endangered species. Hybrids, however, tend to escape the attempts to categorize them, and hence, they pose a specific challenge to legal systems defining the status of non-humans. By examining a court decision on wolf poaching in Finland, we discuss the capacity of legal frameworks to make sense of ambiguity arising from scientific categorizations. We argue that in a world in which human and non-human lives are entangled, conservation policies must be based on principles of responsible killing: instead of killing because we can and think we must (categories for killable non-humans), we need more careful differentiations based on the goals of protection, responsibilities of humans, and consequences of human actions for non-human lives. Killing more responsibly means killing only when it is the only available solution and requires the evaluation of the likelihood and scale of specific harm — or benefit — potential hybrids may cause.

William Lynn. Bringing Ethics to Wild Lives

Ethics reviews are not part of environmental policy or wildlife management in the United States. This changed when, for the first time, the US Fish and Wildlife Service conducted such a review with respect to barred and northern spotted owl. Spotted owls are endangered throughout their range by a variety of anthropogenic and natural forces. The interspecific competition between barred and spotted owls is a key factor second only to habitat destruction. A proposed lethal experiment to remove barred owls raised ethical concerns amongst wildlife agencies, citizens, and advocacy groups. Seeking to better understand these concerns, the Service created the Barred Owl Stakeholder Group. Using an innovative method and instrument in the form of an ethics-based policy dialogue and an ethics brief, the stakeholder group explored the ethical dimensions of the removal experiment. This process holds lessons for how public policy can bring ethics to bear on wild lives.

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