Human intervention in the form of the rehabilitation, relocation and release of wildlife seems, on the face of it, to be a good thing. It is an outlet for human compassion for species other than our own and is generally aimed at restoration of an environmental imbalance that humans themselves have caused. Similarly, research in the scientific community whose goal to captive breed and then release rare and endangered species back into 'the wild' seems virtuous in that it is meeting an important conservation need. However, it shall be argued in this article that such actions are self-contradictory in that they permit the continuation of the very conditions that led to their being undertaken in the first instance. While limited ethical justification can be made for rehabilitation, relocation and release of wildlife, it is not strong when faced with the claims of what might be called 'ecological justice' where the highest good equals the protection of the maximum amount of interconnected biodiversity in a given environment. The achievement of this higher good requires that our ethical attention and limited scientific and financial resources move away from supporting individual animals and species and be urgently redirected to the preservation and management of whole ecosystems.
Recommended CitationAlbrecht, Glenn, Thinking like an ecosystem: the ethics of the relocation, rehabilitation and release of wildlife, Animal Issues, 2(1), 1998.