Wildlife farming is a way of animal farming where endangered species are raised in an agricultural set up to produce medicine, food and fiber. It provides food and boosts the rural income. Many food security consultants, public health experts and sea world experts have promoted this idea but some scientists argue that such farming does not benefit the troubled animals that much.
Wildlife Farming: Does it Help or Hurt Threatened Species?
This captive breeding has a history of over a decade now. Bush-tailed porcupines were very famous food among rural and urban people of West Africa for its high protein value. But they were not that much in number as they only produce a few offspring and moreover the price was too high. So the researchers opined for wildlife farming because it would provide more protein rich food for the consumers and in other hand as they are exclusively meant for eating, it would not harm the wildlife animal in any case. Not only porcupines, Africa has domesticated ostrich, camel and buffalos as well. This concept has been so popular in Africa as bush meat is one of the most important intake items among them. In many journals like ‘Conservation Letters’, wildlife trade researchers like Dan Challender and Douglas C. MacMilan have debated that government rules and law and order about wildlife conservation is not enough to stop the poaching problem. Rather we should opt for regulated trade and wildlife farming.
When this procedure was applied to increase the number of wild crocodiles in Africa before in the mid-twentieth century, it was a success. So in one way we can say that wildlife farms are able to protect certain species which were decreasing in numbers due to ruthless poaching for their medicinal and food value. Even South African film maker Rick Lomba in his documentary film ‘The End of Eden’ has cited successful example of such captive breeding.
But now the question is that, does this wildlife breeding really help the threatened species? Let’s dig into it. Many conservation scientists have argued that wildlife farming might be helpful in building rural income and they might be a good source of dietary protein but this process is futile as it does actually nothing to help the endangered and threatened species. Because pseudo-conservation might increase the numbers of the wildlife population but the complicated food web dynamics, the health of ecosystem and biodiversity mechanism is fully destroyed by this breeding. If you force an elephant or a rhino to live within a boundary of private game range then overall natural development of that species can never be attained. They are not meant to be living like this and this is not a conservation strategy. One more problem with this process is that, it’s more expensive to house, feed and care for these animals in captivity than to collect them from the wilderness. In countries like Asia, people may pay that added price but in many countries of Africa and other wealthy nations people often show reluctance to pay for the sustainability. So what happens is that when farmers fail to get profit from the market they tend to re-stock those animals from the wilderness. Studies show that 90 percent of cane rat farms in Ghana, half of porcupine farms in Vietnam still take animals from the wild.
So we need to make ‘sustainable intensification’ of the captive breeds and should calculate whether it is achieving profit from the market or not so that the problem of re-stocking decreases. The challenge is real. If we can’t control the situation sensitively, a day can come when our planet will have no wildlife at all.