David Bowman, University of Tasmania
Sarah - Since humans first set foot in Australia, 50,000 years ago, we've pretty much spelled disaster for the continent. The first settlers wiped out the continent’s megafauna, including species of giant kangaroo, and the early English colonists introduced foxes, cats, camels, rodents, rabbits, and even poisonous cane toads, and rampant African grasses – all of which had a devastating effect on the ecology of the country and have driven many of the native species to extinction. So, when an Australian Professor of ecology published a paper suggesting that the answer might actually be to accept that we’re never going to return Australia to how it once was and to introduce even more non-native species including elephants to at least stabilise the status quo, it was bound to be controversial. Chris Smith spoke to the author of that paper, the University of Tasmania’s David Bowman...
We’re in a real predicament and I think that the lesson is that humans have to manage nature, we’re in the Anthropocene. We can't just assume that natural systems are going to be self-righting if we’ve really hammered the natural systems with quite dramatic stresses and introductions. It’s very controversial thinking, but I've been living with these problems for 30 years and it was about time somebody said something.
It sounds slightly less sensible than introducing cane toads. Bored chemist, Tue, 7th Feb 2012
Even before I read this interview, I have to say that I admire the Australian stance on the import of non-native species, even for pets.
Invasive species constitute a global issue. Certainly we have many invasive plants in the USA, and a few invasive animals. I believe the Burmese Python is invasive in Florida.
Elephant proof fence is very hard to do. Even an electric fence with lethal voltage will not deter them if there is green food and water on the other side. They drop 2 trees to down a section of fence and walk across. If there are no trees nearby then they will bring them. The rhino's did not notice the fence and walked right through, the shock merely made them more skittish. SeanB, Sat, 11th Feb 2012
I think Australia should covet their population density ranking of 235/241.
If you plant to bring elephants, don't forget to bring the right sort of dung beetle or you will really be in the ... newspapers for your foolishness. Bored chemist, Sun, 12th Feb 2012
Low population density, but do remember that most of the country is low to no rainfall. I think there is already something to handle elephant processed plant material there, otherwise there would be an equal amount of kangaroo mounds. SeanB, Sun, 12th Feb 2012
"Dung beetles tend to have a preference for a particular type of dung. "
Yes they are good to eat. Yes some are used for hunting, some are captured for export to the Middle East and other areas where there are difficulties of supply or disease with the local stock, and some are domesticated and used locally as beasts of burden, etc. But there is a huge wild population that is still a nuisance in spoiling desert environment or dryland crops, etc., and while culling can and does occur, our vast and sparsely populated interior prevents any real possibility of extermination or even control of the wild population, as I understand it.