cover image Cull of the Wild: Killing in the Name of Conservation

Cull of the Wild: Killing in the Name of Conservation

Hugh Warwick. Bloomsbury Wildlife, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-3994-0374-0

In this nuanced report, ecologist Warwick (Linescapes) probes the thorny moral quandaries surrounding attempts to contain animal populations through slaughter. Highlighting the humans and animals at the center of culling debates, Warwick explains that gray squirrels in Britain carry a virus that’s fatal to red squirrels and discusses environmentalist Craig Shuttlesworth’s controversial efforts to save the declining red population by catching and killing gray squirrels. Though invasive species are usually targeted for population control, native species can also come under fire, Warwick writes, pointing out that English gamekeepers kill foxes to protect pheasants and that cane toads were introduced to Australia to deplete the indigenous cane beetle population, only for the voracious toads to themselves become an ecological nuisance. The plentiful case studies reveal the complex, unintuitive calculations that must be considered in conservation efforts, as when Warwick notes that killing invasive dingoes in Australia resulted in higher rates of endemic small mammal deaths because the canines had been keeping down the number of non-native cats. Warwick’s searching meditation on the ethical uncertainties surrounding culling offers no easy answers, though he ultimately acknowledges that some killing in the name of the greater good may be necessary to undo harms caused by humans, even if he feels uneasy about it. This brings clarity and insight to a fraught subject. (June)