Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Controversial Conservation: a World Land Trust debate led by Chris Packham

Photograph of Chris Packham. © BBC.
Date and Time: 
14 October 2013, 6.30pm – 9.30pm
The Royal Society, London: Wellcome Trust Lecture Hall, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG



Chris Packham - patron of World Land Trust (WLT), TV presenter, zoologist and conservationist - led a WLT debate about aspects of conservation that are often swept under the carpet as being too controversial to address. The event was supported by the Sibthorp Trust, which promotes the study and discussion of key environmental issues.

In due course World Land Trust plans to publish the event's proceedings, but in the meantime, highlights of the evening included:

~ Niche species: Chris Packham asked which niche species are worth saving? Is it right to divert huge amount of funds to save pandas, for instance? And if so, who decides which species can be saved and which are doomed? Reintroductions – can they work? They are hugely costly and can create problems themselves – is it worth doing?

~ Dangerous wild animals: We tell people in India that they should be protecting their elephants and tigers, despite the fact that they can cause human deaths, eat their cattle and destroy crops. Yet in Britain we are culling badgers because they carry TB. India has TB in wildlife as well, but no badgers. Vivek Menon championed the cause of living alongside big dangerous animals. And not persecuting badgers.

~ Persecution of protected wildlife: In this country harriers have been protected by law since 1954, yet they are persecuted by those who want to shoot grouse and partridges, said Mark Avery. Mark's comments were challenged by members of the audience who argued that managed grouse moors were ensuring the survival of Black Grouse.

~ Domestic cats and feral cats: George Fenwick argued that cats have caused the extinctions of 33 species of bird and should be kept indoors. For Celia Haddon getting rid of cats is the not the right answer to complex questions about conservation. Cats are simply culling weaker birds, said Celia, and without them, rodent populations would increase dramatically.

The question and answer sessions were chaired by Chris Packham.

The speakers

Chris Packham was joined by guest speakers Vivek Menon, Mark Avery, George Fenwick and Celia Haddon.

Vivek Menon is founder and Chief Executive of WLT’s overseas partner, Wildlife Trust of India. A wildlife conservationist, environmental commentator, author and photographer with a passion for elephants, he founded Wildlife Trust of India in 1998 in response to the rapidly deteriorating condition of wildlife in India.

Mark Avery, a scientist by training and a naturalist by inclination is former Conservation Director of the RSPB. Mark is a prolific writer on environmental issues, and his often controversial blog is widely read.

George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is outspoken on behalf of ABC on what outdoor cats get up to and believes that cats are killing more than four billion animals every year in the USA, including at least 500 million birds.

Celia Haddon is a writer and a cat expert. While George advocates that cats simply cannot be allowed to predate outdoors, Celia argues that this is not an acceptable solution.

Event Schedule

6.30pm Doors open  
7pm Welcome  
7.05pm Which species can we save? Presented by Chris Packham
7.25pm Living alongside big, dangerous animals Presented by Vivek Menon
7.45pm Panel Discussion followed by Public Q & A  
8.05pm Break  
8.25pm The Sparrowhawk dilemma Presented by Mark Avery
8.45pm Domestic and feral animals on the loose Presented by George Fenwick
    & Celia Haddon
9.15pm Panel Discussion followed by Public Q & A  
9.45pm Possible outcomes?  
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