(Dr. Girish Chandra)
Wildlife management is interdisciplinary that deals with protecting endangered and threatened species and subspecies and their habitats, as well as the non-threatened agricultural animals and game species. The Wildlife Management program emphasizes both applied and basic research in wildlife ecology, management, education and extension.
Wildlife management takes into consideration the ecological principles such as carrying capacity of the habitat, preservation and control of habitat, reforestation, predator control, re-introduction of extinct species, capture and reallocation of abundant species and management of "desirable" or "undesirable" species. The profession of wildlife management was established in USA during 1920-1930 by Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) and others. The institutional foundations of the profession of wildlife management were established in the 1933 when Leopold was granted professorship in wildlife management in University of Wisconsin, Madison and he published his books, Game Management and Game and fish handbook. Aldo Leopold eventually developed the first graduate game management program for wildlife biologists at the University of Wisconsin, USA.
There are two general types of wildlife management:
Manipulative management involves regulating numbers of animals directly by harvesting or by influencing numbers by altering food supply, habitat, density of predators etc.
Custodial management is preventive or protective and minimizes external influences on the population and its habitat. It is done by setting up national parks where ecological conditions are protected and threatened species are conserved by law.
The Wildlife Management program focuses on the following:
Elements of Wildlife Management
Management of wildlife depends on certain elements such as public support and awareness to protect wildlife and their habitats.
Public Participation: It is necessary to make local people realise and accept the idea and importance of wildlife protection. Public interaction can help in making local people responsible and cooperate in enforcement of wildlife management laws and regulations. Their feedback should also be taken for effective functioning of wildlife management.
Public Awareness: People should understand the concept of conservation of natural resources. The wildlife managers and other responsible persons should held public discussions, shows, and talks and should also take help of other media like newspapers, magazines, radio and television to make people aware about the basic concepts behind wildlife management. This can stop people from exploiting natural resources, which is the major threat to wildlife and their habitats.
Education: The role of education in pubic awareness programs is very important. There should be environmental subjects based on wildlife conservation in school and college curricula. The well-educated and trained specialists on environmental and forest issues should participate in public training and interact with people and solve their queries to make them more responsible towards their wildlife management duties.
Nature Interpretation Centres: Nature interpretation centres may include setting up of educational camps or exhibition in nearby regions of protected areas such as zoological gardens, parks and wildlife sanctuaries. It is usually taken up by the concerned forest departments. The interpretation centres should be handled by qualified and trained staff in order to explain and motivate the concepts of wildlife management to the tourists and people of the nearby-protected areas.
Coordination: Wildlife management is operated at four basic levels – local, state, national and international. Government agencies plan the policies of protecting, conserving and managing wildlife. All the management levels participate in passing wildlife management tools and many a time, conflicts arise.
Forms of Wildlife Management
Habitat Restoration and Management
Habitat management is a primary tool wildlife biologists use to manage, protect, and enhance wildlife populations. Increased wildlife diversity in an area may be a wildlife management goal. It is difficult to develop strategies for managing each species separately. Several wildlife species can benefit when a complete ecosystem is improved or preserved intact to meet the needs of threatened or endangered species or groups of species.
Managers may enhance grassland areas by clearing brush (prescribed burning, cutting, herbicides) and removing trees, as well as over-planting them with native prairie species. This helps reduce cover used by edge predators (skunks, raccoons, red-tailed hawks) and improves the quality of the habitat for grassland animals.
Managers may strive to reduce or maintain populations so animals conflict less with human activities. For example, white-tailed deer are abundant in urban areas. This presents challenges for wildlife managers because hunting with firearms is not allowed. The most effective solution has been controlled hunts. Monkey population in urban India can be controlled by capture and release in wild areas.
Endangered Species Management
Endangered or threatened species require intensive management. Critical habitat and locations of existing populations must be identified so they can be managed successfully. An animal species is considered endangered when its numbers become so low that experts think it may become extinct unless action is taken to save it.
Threatened species’ populations are showing signs of unnatural decline or they are vulnerable to becoming endangered. Many endangered or threatened species are specialists that have very restrictive habitat needs and eat specialized foods. The leading cause for a species becoming endangered or threatened is habitat loss.
Another wildlife management goal may be to re-establish species in suitable habitat. The lost species can be reintroduced from other areas once again in reintroduction programs and management efforts. Study of biology and ecological requirements of the species is necessary before the introductions.
Conservation and Preservation
Wildlife conservation helps ensure future generations can enjoy our resources. Conservation can include harvesting natural resources, activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping and harvesting timber as well as non-consumptive activities such as bird watching, photography, and hiking. Conservation must balance issues between wildlife and human populations. Conservation of wildlife implies insuring threatened and endangered species receive special management to protect their presence in the future.
Conservation may include preservation or protection of natural resources that emphasizes non-consumptive activities. A habitat or ecosystem can be preserved by manipulation and an area also may be managed by doing nothing at all. For example, a forest can be conserved by allowing it to mature without any human manipulation such as timber harvest, grazing, or tree planting.
Biodiversity conservation in forest ecosystems
Conservation of natural forest ecosystems is the main function of most protected forest areas and the term "protected area" encompasses a vast variety of approaches for the management of natural and semi-natural forest types. National parks and forest reserves are no longer the only methods that can be used for the conservation of biological diversity. A possible alternative is multiple use forest management, which incorporates harvesting of forest products within a framework of sustainable management that aims at both conserving biodiversity and supplying benefits to local people and the national economy.
Numerous problems arise in relation to the management of protected areas. Problems include conflicts with local people over land rights and illegal extraction of animal and plant resources. These problems are often intensified due to the inability of state authorities to protect such areas. Hence, stated conservation achievements do not always reflect reality. In practice, even though there are good examples of effective national parks and forest reserves, the past hundred years or more have witnessed a parallel increase in both the number and surface area of protected areas and a growing number of extinct or threatened species.
Experience has shown that legal protection alone is not enough to ensure effective conservation activity. In particular, protected areas will only fulfill their conservation goals if the land around them is managed appropriately. In reality, many protected areas suffer from encroachment by farming and cropping activities. Currently therefore, the objective of biodiversity conservation in forests can only generally be ensured by the creation of substantial areas of natural forest for production around them. Such a "buffer zone" can support the protected area while, at the same time, provide local people with benefits.
Buffer zones are meant to form a physical barrier against human encroachment of the centrally protected area. Furthermore, the support of local people in conservation objectives can be promoted by their participation in the harvesting and management of buffer zones.
Sustainable wildlife management
Wildlife is being used for tourism, mainly in Africa. Besides the financial value of these activities, this method of utilizing wildlife resources should be ecologically and socially viable, but it is important to remember that wildlife also has considerable socio-cultural and religious importance. In the past, authoritarian management of wildlife resources has often failed. Total bans on the use and marketing of game have also forced communities to poaching. The implication is that it is not generally possible to manage natural resources and fauna without the active participation of local communities in decision-making and subsequent benefits. Integrated community programmes for resource conservation have been formulated with success in several African countries, leading to a considerable drop in poaching, an increase in animal populations and to habitat regeneration.
Although fire is a natural component of many forest ecosystems, it can damage vegetation and consequently lead to soil erosion and a loss of fertility if not used properly. Likewise, fires may also have harmful effects in that they can lead to carbon emissions during combustion. It has been proven that most forest fires are caused by human intervention due to a number of different causes. However, if used properly and with care, fire is a valuable tool for farmers and herders. In forestry, for example, it is used in the preparation of sites for establishing plantations or to encourage natural regeneration. In reality, problems of fire control are more sociological in nature than technical. Effective fire control is more a matter of popular education and agricultural policy than direct control and response.
Management for soil and water conservation
Forested watersheds that provide water to densely populated areas should be protected against shifting cultivation and unplanned urbanization. The only management in such cases should be effective surveillance to protect forest cover. Associating the functions of water supply and natural reserves for wildlife and plant life in the same watershed does not generally present any technical problems and water management carried out downstream from these areas can be successful.