Response-ability in human-wildlife interactions

While this paper is not about human-elephant relations, I appreciate the way it frames the human, dog, and wolf in relations of co-existence and conflict. The article examines interspecies narratives and analyses how each actor learns to attune, anticipate, and respond to each other’s behaviour while living in a shared landscape. Sometimes they successfully and non-confrontationally share space, other times they hurt or kill each other. It raises questions about what processes, beliefs, and actors shaped the outcome of events

Of course, compared to elephants, there are many different issues regarding species, ecology, socio-economic classes, conservation status of the animal, but it is still worth a read. Personally, I believe it adeptly adopts a concept developed in the humanities, and extends it in a way that contributes towards the concerns of conservation biology, and helps how we think about human-wildlife relations

Peltola, T., & Heikkilä, J. (2015). Response-ability in wolf–dog conflicts. European journal of wildlife research61(5), 711-721.

You can find the paper here

This is an excerpt from the abstract

Based on the analysis of this material, we conclude that preventing wolf caused damage on dogs calls for response-ability, defined as affective attuning to the presence of wolves. Such attuning allows humans to develop routines that enable them to anticipate wolf presence, for example by protecting and monitoring their dogs and by investing in effective social networking. The need to develop anticipatory knowledge and situated sensibility to the presence of the wolf necessarily leads to critical evaluation of the habits of keeping dogs. Hence, it also explains why there are no easy solutions to wolf–dog conflicts. To become attuned to the presence of wolves may sometimes require more than what humans are ready and willing to do. Thus, there seems to be affective thresholds for response-ability across the species. At the same time, however, some of the events could be avoided with fairly simple pragmatic solutions.

Methods excerpt

As a research material, we collected and analyzed 201 narratives describing attacks of wolfs on dogs mainly in Eastern Finland. This material consists of news and articles published in newspapers, the majority of which have been published in regional and local newspapers Kainuun Sanomat and Kuhmolainen, respectively. The dataset from these two newspapers covers 25 years between 1987 and 2012 and was collected systematically as a part of a larger “Large Carnivores and Humans”—project. In total, we were able to collect 107 descriptions on wolf attacks on dogs from these two newspapers. The material has been complemented by news and articles from other newspapers; these include 29 attack descriptions from the newspapers KarjalainenVerkkoKarjalainen, and KarjalanmaaRaahen Seutu and Iltalehti, published in 1995–2013. As a result, in all, our material consists of 136 case descriptions on wolf–dog encounters published in regular newspapers.

As newspapers form a specific arena where wolf–dog conflicts have been reported, we have supplemented the dataset by acquiring information also from game management authorities from the years 2005 and 2007–2011

Conclusion excerpt

“Antiseptic” wolf policy is reflected by the reluctance to acknowledge the reciprocity between the species. Seeing the wolf as guilty and problematic has led to campaigns to reduce wolf numbers, missing out the fact that wolves and other large carnivores are actually beneficial in their ecosystems (e.g., LCIE ). Developing safe cohabitation between the canines and humans cannot, however, be based on an antiseptic attitude because cohabitation, by definition, requires adaptation.

A more response-able wolf policy would not be so much focused on wolf numbers or public opinion about them but on the collective practices, resources, and capacities for transformation, reciprocity and mutual competencies across species. In particular, the existing and potential new forms of collective labor that support the development of more robust human–wolf–dog relations, for example, the work done by some dog breeders, breeding associations, and other civil society organizations should be acknowledged, and studied further.