The ethics of managing elephants

Acta Academica 38 (1):55-90 (2006)
Abstract
If humans may indeed legitimately intervene in conservation areas to let nature be and to protect the lives of all the diverse individual animals under their care, then the management of elephants must be legitimate as part of the conservation of natural world diversities. If this is so, to what extent are current management options ethically acceptable? In this article I address the ethics of the management options available once the judgement has been made that there are too many elephants in a conservation area. I evaluate the ethical acceptability of four options, i.e., the simulation of nature, translocation, contraception, and culling. I furthermore ask whether the harsh blow of culling under very specific conditions can be softened by the taming and training of African elephants. I then examine the ethics of decision making about these issues. Before I do so, two issues must be discussed that decisively influence the management of elephants. The one is whether it is ethically justifiable to fence in elephants. The second is the ethical requirements of the scientific practice that informs management decisions. In the article I come to the conclusion that all four options are ethically flawed. All four require some violation of the important injunction to let nature be and to treat individual animals with respect. However, to do nothing and allow a loss of other species violates the important goal of conserving natural world diversity.
Keywords Elephants  Conservation  Conservation management
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