Dr. Hiromasa Igota, from the Rakuno Gakuen University, started this session with his thoughts on wildlife conservation in the Asia Pacific. This region is known to be very diverse, with some areas having the highest elevation on Earth, to plateaus, as well as subarctic, temperate and tropical zones. The wide variation of habitats contributes to the richness of the mammal fauna. Despite this, countries in this region have seen a decline in the abundance of species since the early 20th century – this is attributed to human causes. The destruction of habitats, over-hunting and poaching are among the reason why this has happened.
In recent years, some governments have moved to support wildlife conservation by introducing “protected areas”; this accounts for 20% of the land in China and 5% in Japan. An example of conservation success story is an increase in number of the Tibetan antelope in China, which saw a sharp decrease in numbers due to their highly valued wool.
A further concern in this region is the issue of overabundance, where wildlife numbers have risen above what can be considered necessary. From wild boar and water deer in South Korea, to the Sika deer in Japan, overabundance can lead to serious damages to agriculture and forestry. Half of the forest areas in Japan were affected by sika deer, and a 20% decline in vegetation and erosion was observed in 2010 (damages worth 100 million USD). Urban wildlife issues are a further concern, involving species such as sika deer, wild boars, black and brown bears.
Dr. Igota concluded by suggesting that many of the countries in this region, which prohibit foreign nationals from hunting, should consider conservation based hunting as a tool to help fund conservation programs and local economies.
Dr. Ahmad spoke of the wildlife issues that Pakistan is currently facing; this includes the endangered snow leopard (which is also the source of human-conflict as they prey on domestic livestock) and the conservation of reptiles in parts of Pakistan. Illegal trade is another growing problem within the country, with some aphrodisiac plants being smuggled in and out of the border. Wildlife based conservation and hunting was proposed as a potential solution to these issues, as it would provide much needed funds to protect the country’s wildlife.
Keiya Nakajima, Vice-President of the International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey, Asia, gave his thoughts on falconry and its association with conservation. Falcons are listed as an endangered species on ICN, and their conservation, under international agreement, is essential in order to keep balance within ecosystems. Some raptors are at the top of their foods chain; ensuring their continued survival will be vital in maintaining balance within the natural environment.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Don Hammond, Chair of the New Zealand Game Animal Council, drew parallels between New Zealand’s wildlife and the New Zealand of 1000 years prior to today (they had no mammals except for bats). There are currently many non-native species in the country, and it is illegal to hunt native species. With the influx of invasive species to New Zealand, hunting is an essential practice to protect indigenous wildlife. Despite this, the urban population struggles to connect with these issues, and it will be hunters that need to be part of the solution.
Panellists then moved on to answer questions; the first topic of discussion was on people opposed to the use of firearms for hunting purposes. As ecosystems rely on management, mind-sets in urban areas will need to be changed going forward. Social media was mentioned as a potential threat to successful conservation activities, which may in part be due to the one sided nature of news on social media platforms.
Much like in previous panel discussions, potential strategic partnerships for organisations involved in conservation work was brought up. Mr. Don Hammond suggested that falcons could be used within the wine industry, as there are many animals and pests in New Zealand vineyards that negatively influence the production of wine. It was stressed that bringing together the hunting community could help find solutions to conservation issues, and that hunters are not the problem.
The final question was in regards to securing areas intended for conservation use; in the case of Japanese organisations, there was a suggestion that language may act as a barrier when coordinating efficiently with organisations such as the IUCN. In addition, land use and ensuring that land owners have greater control over their land and domestic live stock was highlighted as an area of importance. For New Zealand, with no cross boundary issues, imported herbivores affecting undisturbed ecosystems and the human impact on the environment were mentioned as pressing concerns.
Dr. Holly Dublin concluded by summarising the material from the session, and by emphasising the fact that while hunting is one element of conservation, it also one of many different factors that influence conservation.