Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source: Workshop "How do you manage? Unravelling the situated practice of environmental management" (2012)
, nature management
Managing wildlife has become a commonplace practice during the last decades: wild animals are increasingly monitored, especially in protected areas, and even experimented upon. Scientists have taken an important role in these practices. This has led to a rise of cooperation between researchers and wildlife and nature managers. These people having different aims, knowledge, skills and ethical engagements, reconciling their scientific programmes and management plans is no easy task and requires negotiations and mutual adjustments. They also have to negotiate with and adjust to animals that have their own intentions and dynamics. Wildlife management does therefore not result from the implementation of a plan in a straightforward manner and might be grasped as an ongoing process, which is invented in practice.
To highlight this process, we shall draw on an empirical survey conducted about a scientific programme, the Preys-Predator Programme (PPP), which aims to document the impact of wolf predation on the population dynamics of wild ungulates. Currently being carried out in the Mercantour National Park (MNP), the PPP involves a scientific lab affiliated to CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research) and different management institutions (the National Wildlife Service, the MNP and the local hunters federation). It also involves various species of wild ungulates and the wolf. In 2010, we conducted a dozen semi-directed interviews with members of the PPP. We also observed how some of them engaged with wild animals on the field and we participated in meetings about the programme.
Firstly, we shall show that the PPP created unprecedented situations for all the actors: the Wildlife Service had never captured wolves in France since the return of the species in the early 1990s; the scientists involved were not used to working in a national park and, of course, the wolves were not particularly eager to let themselves trapped or shot from a helicopter and then radiocollared. Secondly, we shall see that these new situations require engagements that concern both animals and humans and have various dimensions (physical and emotional for all as well as ethical for humans). Thirdly, we shall turn to the outcomes of the PPP, which are largely unexpected and, in part, undesired. So far, the programme has not brought much if any light on the initial question (i.e. impact of wolf predation on the population dynamics of wild ungulates) but it has produced information about the radiocollared wolves, regarded as anecdotal by the scientists and the wildlife service agents but as most interesting by the MNPs staff and by local hunters. It has also produced unexpected social effects: the scientists have been led to justify their choices and doings; some of the parks routine but undiscussed practices, such as the use of helicopters, have been made public and criticized. The PPP might also have influenced the social relationships of the wolf: drastic changes rapidly occurred in the lives of the three radiocollared individuals and some believe this is due to their having been captured and equipped.