Wildlife mediator steps into the fray when humans howl about wolves
One summer, more than a decade ago, biologists discovered that gray wolves – once driven to nearextinction in the continental United States – were breeding again in Washington state.
The sound of howling wolf pups was welcome news for conservationists, but not for the state’s US$700 million (NZ$1 billion) cattle industry. Not long after, when some wolves began to prey on livestock, age-old tensions were resurrected.
Some members of that first pack were poached – despite federal protections. Ranchers whose forefathers believed a good wolf was a dead one now had to contend with government officials and conservationists who had other opinions.
Fortunately, there was someone to call for help: Francine Madden and her Washington, DC-based not-for-profit organisation, the Centre for Conservation Peacebuilding. In a city full of fascinating but oddly narrow areas of intellectual expertise, Little Red Riding Hood, Peter and the Wolf, Fish and Wildlife Service notes, ‘‘than any other animal in US history’’. By the mid-1970s, gray wolves were among the first animals to make the endangered species list.
Then, in the 1990s, the US Government embarked on a controversial plan to boost the American wolf population with Canadian wolves. And as the wolf population of eastern Washington state grew, ranchers and environmentalists began baring fangs. By 2015, things had become so bad that Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife hired Madden as a ‘‘thirdparty conservationists and villagers agree on a solution: create teams that could respond quickly to gorilla attacks. In the years since, she has gone on to mediate invasive-species conflicts in the Galapagos and around the globe.
In Washington state, Madden spent 350 hours interviewing 80 people about wolves before she led advisory group meetings. She found anomalies in the us-v-them narrative: a hunter who described seeing a wolf as a ‘‘religious experience"; and environmentalists who supported, or were neutral about, the idea of a wolf hunt. Wolves, she found, were a proxy – Washington Post
Francine Madden, who mediates between humans fighting over wildlife, at the National Zoo in October.