What Is Wild?
The extinction of species and loss of wilderness are critical issues that demand our immediate attention. Much has been written about these issues. This thesis addresses a related issue, ‘wild’ animals losing their ‘wildness’. Just as we discuss how to keep wilderness wild in order to save it, we should we begin a similar discussion for wild animals. Zoos keep animals. If we want wild animals, we’ll have to be clear what makes them wild. We tend to think of wildness as a quality, i.e. a characteristic of a wild animal. A review of pertinent literature and common usage of the term reveals that we (at least in the English language) associate four characteristics of wild animals with their wildness: independence, naturalness, wariness, and distance. These characteristics are not all compatible, and this presents a problem when trying to preserve wildness. They are also determined by our perception, not something intrinsic to the animal. Though taken to describe a characteristic of a kind of animal, wildness is better thought of as a relationship between a human, an animal, and a varying environment. At the center of this relationship is the concept of human control (or lack thereof). Where a person encounters the animal, and with what influence on that animal and that place, determines how that person conceives of the animal’s wildness. If we are to efficiently design and implement effective conservation programs intended to ‘preserve’ wild animals, we must understand exactly what it is that we are trying to preserve. If wildness comes from a relationship, we must determine what aspects of these relationships to preserve, or change, in order to keep wild animals wild. This thesis hopes to begin the identification and preservation of these aspects, and to assure that we preserve the wildness of wildlife.
Advisor: Maclaurin, James
Degree Name: Master of Science Communication
Degree Discipline: Science Communication
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: wildness; wildlife; urban ecology; environmental ethics; conservation; synanthropes; invasive species; animal rights; human-animal interactions
Research Type: Thesis