Balancing Nature and Human Needs on the Designer Ark

August 20, 2014

Depending on where one lives, the ability to coexist with wildlife varies drastically. David Wilkie, WCS Director of Conservation Support, discusses the different challenges he experiences in Boston, MA, compared to his friend, Kauteli, who lives in the Congo.

When my wife and I lived in the forests of the Congo several years ago, we had a friend and neighbor named Kauteli. He liked or was indifferent to animals that did not threaten his family, damage his crops, or eat his seeds. But he did all in his power to keep at a distance those that menaced his family's safety, food security, or livelihood.

That Kauteli would rather not live with some wildlife put him in conflict with the conservation community, who like me (a European-educated biological research scientist) typically advocate for protecting all of nature's parts and the ecological roles each and every species plays. Though saving all of nature is, I would argue, a good thing for humanity and the planet, it is a viewpoint that can at times be myopic to the needs and interests of those who must live with wild nature.

Kauteli is not alone. We all have "designer" arks, as I like to call them — a list of the species that, like Noah, we would make room for on the survival vessel of our imagination. Which species make it and which do not depends a lot of where you are sitting. Boston, Massachusetts, is a far cry from the Congo and each July my mind strays toward thoughts of Kauteli for perspective as our garden begins to look like a battlefield, with each tender perennial surrounded by a wire palisade to fend off the attacking rabbits.

Read the full blog on the Huffington Post >>
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