Limerick Conference to Highlight “Sustainable Use” as Major Threat to Animals

Sunday, 13 June, 2004
Limerick, Ireland
A group of the world’s leading experts and academics will gather at an international conference on wildlife conservation at the University of Limerick this week. Conference delegates will be told that the global conservation agenda has been hijacked and now poses a threat to the protection of wildlife and habitats worldwide. 
‘Wildlife Conservation: In Pursuit of Ecological Sustainability’ is the first in a series of international forums being hosted by IFAW, (International Fund for Animal Welfare The IFAW Forum at Limerick will run from June 16 to 19 in the Jean Monet Theatre at the University.

Dr David Lavigne, one of the world’s leading marine mammal scientists, is among the array of eminent international experts presenting papers at the forum. He said, “Conservation has reached a turning point. It has been hijacked by the so-called ‘wise-use’ movement. This Orwellian takeover has stolen the mantle of conservation and abused it to promote trade in wildlife under the guise of ecological sustainability.”

“We need to scrap conservation as we know it, because it has become part of the problem, not part of the solution. It must be reinvigorated, revised and reinvented to do any good at all. The most obvious option is to adapt traditional conservation principles to deal with the realities of the 21st century,” Lavigne said. “Perhaps both the word conservation, and the movement it inspired, should be abandoned and replaced with something that recognizes humans are a part of nature and that the future of our species and that of others are inextricably linked.”

The threat to animals under the current climate of conservation will be emphasized by Professor Martin Willison, of Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, who points out that a quarter of the bird species that existed 10,000 years ago are now gone for ever and an eighth of those still surviving are listed as at risk of extinction. He adds: “Most species of invertebrate animals, for example, have not been named. Un-named species are currently being wiped out en masse in the deep seas before they have ever been seen by human eyes.”

Other presentations will explain how the commercial exploitation of species can destroy the harvest it seeks, as with cod which have declined by 90% in the North Sea since the 1970s, and the vast wealth of cod stocks off Newfoundland, Canada, that have crashed by 99.9% over the past 40 years.

Vivek Menon, of the Wildlife Trust of India and Co-Chair of the IUCN’s Asian Ivory Trade Task Force, sees economic pressure as disastrous: “The sustainability of the ivory trade is a theoretical myth constructed by ivory tower economists that ignores market trends, trade perceptions and cultural beliefs. We can no longer ignore the precautionary principle in wildlife conservation.”

The conference will be attended by about 85 scientists and other experts from a range of backgrounds spanning ethics to economics from all around the world. As one of the organizers Dr Lavigne, added: “The two dozen invited presenters represent a unique range of talent focused on wildlife conservation. This is a high-powered forum and a world first in bringing together such diverse knowledge and experience to discuss and debate this issue. Hopefully this conference will be a catalyst for change in the whole approach to wildlife conservation worldwide.”
Welcoming the convening of this conference at UL, Professor Roger GH Downer, President said, "We are delighted to have such a gathering of distinguished scientists on campus to address the critical issues around ecological sustainability that will determine the quality of life enjoyed by this and future generations."   

The series of invited presentations and supplementary papers will be published as a book after the IFAW Forum.

As well as the main presentations the conference will feature a public lecture by the world-renowned ape expert, Dr Jane Goodall, entitled ‘Reason for Hope’ on Friday June 18 at 7pm at the theatre. More than 150 people are expected to attend and entrance is free.

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