What an Oakland bird slaughter says about wildlife conflict

A black-crowned night heron in flight  c. WikimediaLiving among wildlife can be difficult.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) struggles every day with how to mitigate cohabitation conflicts between humans and endangered megafauna such as elephants, tigers, apes, bears, and so on.

Such creatures require room to roam and can prove particularly dangerous if encounters ensue. Often, where we address these conflicts are in economically challenged humans communities where the people do not have the means to handle such situations without tragic measures.

Also on IFAW.org: WATCH: Successful first day moving animals at failed NY animal facility

But since we believe all species have a right to be handled carefully and humanely, we were devastated to hear that the US Postal Service in Oakland, California, a US city that serves as habitat for a limited amount of urban species, ordered trees trimmed recently because nesting black-crowned night herons had been defecating on their mail trucks.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the so-called solution was a “feathery massacre that ended with nests—and baby birds—fed through a wood chipper.” This all happened while neighbors, who had come to adore the colony’s presence on city sidewalks and their “rain-forest-like cacophony,” protested at the scene of the killing and eventually called Oakland police officers, who ordered the trimmers to stop.

Some of the chicks were saved, sent to recuperate at the International Bird Rescue (IBR) center in nearby Fairfield. The incident is being investigated by state and federal wildlife officials because the nest destruction and bird deaths may have violated the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

This debacle has shown how callous and insensitive some people can be when it comes to mitigating wildlife conflict. Why didn’t the Postal Service or the tree trimmers take the simple and reasonable step to call one of a bevy of local bird groups in the area like Golden Gate Audubon, Mount Diablo Audubon Society, or IBR before the trimming took place?

It took me two minutes to find these three groups online. What’s their excuse?

It’s sad that with all the progress IFAW and other animal rescue and rehabilitation groups have made in carrying out animal rescues and studying the dynamics of human-wildlife conflict, totally avoidable incidents like these still occur in a country that has the potential to serve as a model for many animal welfare issues.

Obviously, there is still work to be done in spreading awareness.

Hopefully, the outrage from this needlessly lethal incident will foster discussion between everyone involved, and influence the next group or persons posed with such a decision to take the time to do the right thing and incorporate the most basic welfare of wildlife into whatever they decide to do.

--JF

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Azzedine Downes,Executive Vice President for International Operations, VP of P
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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
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Erica Martin, Vice President of Communications
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Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
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Jeffrey Flocken, Regional Director, North America
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Jordi Casamitjana, Campaigns and Enforcement Manager, IFAW UK
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Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
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Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
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Sonja Van Tichelen, Regional Director, European Union
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Tania McCrea-Steele, Campaigns and Enforcement Manager, IFAW UK
Campaigns and Enforcement Manager, IFAW UK