WILD animal welfare

 "Wild animals are impacted by human activities and there is increasing recognition that their welfare is a legitimate moral concern"

— A. Butterworth, IWC Workshop Report 2016

Can a wild animal's welfare be measured? 

Welfare is the balance of positive and negative affective states, i.e. how the animal is feeling, so if we can discuss captive animal welfare then certainly the phenomenon exists for wild animal as well. However, there are of course some differences in the approach to measuring wild animal welfare, with the main difficulty being access to the animals. Nevertheless, there are many non-invasive behavioural, physiological and cognitive measures available. Furthermore, innovations in technology (e.g. drones) are allowing us to get closer than ever before without disturbing the animals. A number of experts and specialist bodies are speaking out in support of integrating animal welfare principles into wild animal research and conservation: they believe it will help in our understanding of environmental threats, and better connect the public to the issues at hand. Collaborations are called for between species experts in the wild and those for captive animals: such multidisciplinary approaches are crucial as there will be some welfare measures in common. At AWE we aim to bridge the gap between wild and captive experts and offer pioneering services evaluating the welfare of wild animals.

Examples of wild animal projects

Animal welfare as a central component of WAP's campaign on impacts of marine debris

In an innovative campaign to raise awareness about marine debris, WAP (formerly WSPA) focussed on the impacts to animal welfare at the individual level. Isabella was a co-author on the keystone report and applied welfare principles to the entanglement situations being seen in a number of marine species. The report highlighted how extremely detrimental to welfare marine debris can be - hailed by some as the greatest cause of suffering to wildlife in current times -  and stimulated further initiatives on reducing ocean plastic and ghost gear by government bodies and NGOs. 

Workshops on wild cetacean welfare 

Wild cetaceans face numerous anthropogenic threats, and solutions are needed to reduce their impact and raise public awareness. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has started an initiative to explore "Non-hunting threats to cetacean welfare", holding a workshop in 2016 (see report) and developing an Action Plan for the next few years, for which AWC has been involved in discussions. Other scientific societies focussed on cetology are planning workshops specifically on welfare, for which Isabella has been invited as a speaker. Find out about the upcoming workshops by checking our publications page. 

If you are interested in AWE's expertise on a wild animal welfare issue, please do 

© 2017-20 Isabella Clegg

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