Faunalytics is an organization that largely focuses its work on the plight of farm animals, but in recent years we have increasingly looked at the field of wildlife animal welfare research and related topics.
An important goal of wildlife welfare research is to better understand the welfare and living conditions of wild animals, as well as how they die and how these deaths can be prevented within particular limits. This is done with the aim of identifying the highest impact areas where we can make positive interventions. Studying the cause of death in wild animals is a key interest because of how it relates to suffering – not all deaths are equal, and whether we are able to identify the causes of death most painful and prevalent across different species, we may be able to help alleviate suffering on a massive scale.
WAI wrote about importance to investigate the cause of death, as well as the methods through which animal advocates could do so. Below, we highlight a handful of resources in the Faunalytics Research Library that can contribute to this area of research.
Responding to animals after a fire
Forest fires are unfortunately very instructive in showing the complexity of the causes of death in nature. Wildfires can kill animals in many ways, ranging from acute heat and burns, to death from asphyxiation, to longer-term mortality from habitat loss and modification. This range of potential causes of death makes both wildfire prevention and subsequent rescue efforts a very complex task. The study summarized here gives some practical advice to wildlife rescuers, in terms of what can be done immediately after these events. The study also identifies areas where we could benefit from more knowledge, including the specific impacts of fire on pollinators, aquatic animals and predatory species, as would studies of the effects of post-fire activities such as Forest explotation.
Use buoys to prevent seabirds from becoming bycatch
Bycatch is responsible for the deaths of billions of individual animals around the world, including fish, marine mammals and seabirds, and by some estimates, more than 10% of the total annual weight caught in fisheries worldwide. Animals taken as bycatch can die quickly, but they can also be injured in various ways in the process, become entangled in gear and struggle frantically to escape. For seabirds, which are caught in nets and lines as they hunt for fish, their deaths can be particularly troubling as they become entangled or snagged, dragged under and drowned. This study in our library looks specifically at ways to mitigate seabird bycatch in gillnets. While the number of animals that could be affected by interventions in this area is relatively small (approximately 400,000 per year), the study and the potential intervention itself are worth noting, as they identify a cause particularly pernicious deaths and offer hope for change.
Respond to predators
Perhaps the most common way we think wild animals suffer and die is predation. Of course, predator-prey relationships exist in any healthy ecosystem, and they are natural phenomena. Whether humans should intervene in nature to reduce predation or suffering in the death of wild animals is a question complex and controversial – mitigating predation deaths can then lead to predators suffering through starvation, and so on. This study examines how humans may contribute to predation deaths by desensitizing certain wild animals upon contact with predators. He finds that even minimal contact with humans can trigger the process of desensitization of animals of certain species, making them more susceptible to long-term predation. More tangentially, this study (and others) show that humans are already affecting predator-prey relationships in nature. While many may rightly cringe at the idea of mitigating predation as a broad intervention (which could have many unintended effects), it is important to remember that we already intervene in nature in a variety of ways. intentional and accidental. We should be more intentional about how we interact with the ecosystems we share and do what we can to positively affect the lives of other animals.
These are just a few recent studies that directly or indirectly address the cause of death in wild animals and take seriously the immense suffering they can face. As an area of wildlife welfare grows, develops and gains supportAt Faunalytics, we will continue to share research that highlights the importance of alleviating the suffering of wild animals wherever possible, and contributes to our knowledge of the field more generally.