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Hunting, Agriculture, and the Quest for International Wildlife Conservation



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Page 1 Hunting Agriculture and the Quest for International Wildlife Conservation during the Early Twentieth Century Mark Cioc History Department University of California Santa Cruz This paper is part of a book in progress tentatively entitled The Game of Conservation International Agreements to Protect the World s Migratory Animals My basic argument is that the major wildlife protection treaties of the early twentieth century are best understood as international hunting treaties rather than as conservation treaties By and large prominent hunters and ex hunters penitent butchers in the words of their critics were the guiding force behind the treaties and they were often far more concerned with the protection of specific hunting grounds and prized prey than with the safeguarding of habitats ecosystems or bioregions Over time wildlife managers and conservationists tried to tweak these treaties into full fledged nature protection agreements They discovered however that textual limitations embedded in the treaties thwarted their efforts and after 1950 they began to push for new approaches based on the precepts of biodiversity bioregionalism and interconnectivity The strengths and weaknesses of these early treaties and the impact they had on subsequent conservation agreements form the main subject matter of the book 1 I will not try to summarize the book here Instead I will focus on just two key diplomatic initiatives that led to four treaties the Convention for the Preservation of Wild Animals Birds and Fish in Africa 1900 and the Convention Relative to the Preservation of Flora and Fauna in their Natural State 1933 the two treaties that gave rise to Africa s national parks and nature reserves and the Convention for the Regulation of Whaling 1931 and the International Page 2 Convention for the Regulation of Whaling 1946 the two treaties that attempted unsuccessfully to create a sustainable regime for commercial whaling I chose these treaties because they typify the hunting mentality of the period and also because agriculture related issues affected their formulation and implementation a dimension often overlooked by scholars working on conservation diplomacy and environmental law The African treaties are used here to highlight the problem of habitat interconnectivity Environmentalists have long recognized that it is not sufficient to protect species or even to protect key habitats long term conservation depends on the maintenance of pathways between these habitats so that animals can move from region to region to breed and feed The rough andtumble of African colonial politics however made it impossible to create anything remotely like a network of interconnected parks and nature reserves What emerged instead was a multitude of discrete parks and nature reserves in which little thought to the migratory routes of animals or to inter park pathways The whaling treaties are used here to illustrate a different kind of interconnectivity the connection between plant oil production canola soy copra peanut palm linseed and others and the whaling industry One of the chief obstacles to whale protection was the fact that the fat industry used whale oil as a price fixing tool designed to keep the price of plant oil as low as possible While scholars have rightly focused on two other prime causes of the whale depletion the global commons problem on the high seas and the use of the Blue Whale Unit BWU as a regulatory tool relatively little attention has been paid to the industry s major product whale oil and its connection to the world fat industry My interest in wildlife conservation began when I read Aldo Leopold s Game Management a book published in 1933 and one still widely appreciated by game wardens and wildlife specialists today Leopold defined game management as the art of making land Page 3 produce sustained annual crops of wild game A professional forester and avid hunter Leopold took a practical approach to conservation wild animals should be cultivated like wheat and corn their numbers augmented for human consumption There are still those who shy at this prospect of a man made game crop as at something artificial and therefore repugnant he noted This attitude shows great taste but poor insight Every head of wild life still alive in this country is already artificialized in that its existence is conditioned by economic forces 2 Farmers Leopold pointed out had long ago developed a variety of techniques seeding weeding irrigating fertilizing fallowing and the like to maximize their annual yields Game cropping by contrast was in its infancy and the tools of the trade still experimental and in flux History shows that game management nearly always has its beginnings in the control of the hunting factor Leopold noted in the staccato like prose for which he was famous Other controls are added later The sequence seems to be about as follows 1 Restriction of hunting 2 Predator control 3 Reservation of game lands as parks forests refuges etc 4 Artificial replenishment restocking and game farming 5 Environmental controls control of food cover special factors and disease 3 Commercial hunting was and on the high seas remains to this day essentially an extractive industry Left to their own devices market hunters deplete species the way miners deplete ore seams moving to new sites after exhausting the old ones thinking only of today s profit and not tomorrow s supply Behind the killing frenzy in Africa was the enormously lucrative trade in ivory tusks skins and feathers Behind the boom in whale hunting was the demand for edible fats with millions of pounds of blubber ending up as margarine and lard on the kitchen tables of Europe What made Game Management so timely was that Leopold called Page 4 for a more sensible model of wildlife conservation one that replaced the mining mentality of the market hunter with the more sustainable model of farming If I were to venture one criticism of Game Management it is that Leopold overlooked one of the key tools of animal conservation international diplomacy Few game species reside solely within the borders of a single country Most are mobile creatures which crisscross national frontiers according to their needs living at certain times of the year in colder and more temperate regions and other times in warmer and equatorial ones Hunting laws predator control forest reserves game cropping and habitat manipulation are all indispensable tools of conservation but they


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