For generations migration was observed through the passing of seasons and little was known about species when they moved beyond our surrounding landscapes. We saw “our” birds and looked at “our” whales, unaware that for the rest of the year people in other nations would encounter the same individuals with the same feeling of “ownership”.

Wildlife is naive to the boundaries we have marked on maps. It sees no borders where our passports must be shown and baggage checked. Wildlife crosses such lines by air or sea, without concern for checkpoints. Animals carry out functions as required wherever they need to be, dictated by the environment, climate and food supply. Paradoxically and incompatibly we have generated a mess of different attitudes, beliefs, traditions and laws to protect these animals, or not, in almost every country.

For example, whilst we provide Countryside Stewardship payments to protect a landscape in which Turtle Doves can feed and breed in the UK (£120/ha pa to establish and manage a modified seed mix specifically for these birds in addition to payments for hedgerow protection for various breeding bird species including Turtle Doves), 1 an estimated minimum of more than two million are legally shot each year in ten EU member states, including Greece, France and Austria. 1 We are doing the creatures we protect a disservice whilst also wasting money and resources.

Wildlife is also transported across our constructed borders. We buy and import products made from plants, animals and other living things that we don’t need to survive and, sadly, are often not valued as much in our homes as they would be if left in situ. Individual sharks will bring economic benefit for years through tourism (shark diving is estimated to be worth more than US$170million pa across just three of the most popular countries globally). 2

Organisations and governments already come together and discuss multi-national issues affecting wildlife, but rules are often broken and simply not enforced. “Tradition” is a word that is banded around as an excuse to exercise such violations. Tradition must have contemporary relevance to justify any persistence in practice – our streets aren’t cobbled nowadays because it is better for current vehicles to run on tarmac.

We are all part of the natural world and we all share responsibility for it. We should work together to overcome differences and teach and celebrate cultural traditions which are no longer sustainable in books and art, allowing wildlife to thrive in the here and now and, ultimately, be shared by all.

RUTH PEACEY, CAMPAIGNER

References:
1. Fisher, I., Ashpole J., Scallan, D., Proud, T., Carboneras, C. (2018). international single species action plan for the conservation of the european turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur(2018 to 2028). European commission technical report.
2. Curzon, K.
shark diving and conservation. Dive magazine. [oline] Available at: http://divemagazine.co.uk/travel/8115-shark-diving-and-conservation(Accessed 11/09/2018)
3. IUCN (2014). A quarter of sharks and rays threatened with extinction. [Online] Available at: https://www.iucn.org/content/quarter-sharks-and-rays-threatened-extinction(Accessed 17/09/2018)