Nonhuman Animal Nations: Transforming Conservation into Wildlife Self-Determination

In: Society & Animals
Jessica Bell Rizzolo Department of Sociology, Animal Studies Program, Environmental Science and Policy Program, Michigan State University East Lansing, MI USA

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Gay Bradshaw The Kerulos Center Jacksonville, OR USA

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Neuroscientists have recently asserted that human and nonhuman animals share comparable brain structures and processes that govern cognition, emotion, and consciousness. This unitary, species-common model of trans-species neuropsychology compels a transformation from the current model of wildlife conservation to wildlife self-determination. Self-determination supports wildlife agency and resilience at the individual and population levels and is based on principles of positive assistance and supportive intervention, parallel sovereignty, and fair terms of cooperation in wildlife-human interactions. The case of Asian elephants (Elephus maximus) in Thailand illustrates how wildlife capture and domination-based captivity, even when intended to conserve animals, can impede self-determination by producing psychophysiologically traumatized wildlife. This article integrates concepts germane to individual animals (agency and trauma recovery) with characteristics of wildlife populations and species (self-determination). It contends that psychosocial data on the mental, emotional, and social functioning of wildlife societies and their members should be included in wildlife assessments and policies.

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