The East India Club in St James's Square was the venue for the 2nd Symposium organised by the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management (VAWM) on the 23rd November. Over 100 delegates listened to 13 presentations on the Welfare and Management of British Wildlife covering a broad spectrum of topics and species.
Professor Twink Allen as chair of VAWM welcomed the delegates and introduced Ian Addison who started the proceedings with an interesting commentary on the differences of cognitive behaviour in man and animals associated with the comparatively huge frontal lobes of the cortex of the brain in man.
James Kirkwood followed and pointed out that with the dramatic increase of the human population there could be conflict between resource demand by man and optimal welfare conditions for animal populations. Where these occur he suggested that we should strive to identify the causes and take action to prevent or alleviate the problems.
The second part of the Symposium focussed on the need to control over-successful species. Peter Green showed that Red Deer populations often reached levels that were unsustainable from a welfare and health standpoint. Control of breeding females was appropriate as the removal of mature males was likely to result in poorer quality of offspring. Another successful variety of deer, the Muntjac, has reached numbers that need to be controlled in some areas and Charles Smith-Jones discussed various methods to achieve an optimum balance. Immuno-contraception is unproven and some scepticism was expressed as to whether it would become a practical method.
VAWM delegates received information on the impact of seals, goosanders and cormorants on salmon and trout from Philip Dyson and Ronald Campbell. Recreational fishing provides a significant number of jobs and income for those relevant areas of the country. Control of the above predators of fish permits sustainability of fish populations and suitable legislation is essential to achieve the appropriate balance.
In recent years both fox and mink populations have devastated other wildlife and domestic livestock. Jonathan Reynolds of the Game Conservancy Trust described the declining numbers of brown hare and water vole that can be linked to numbers of foxes and mink respectively. A balance between all these species is required and systems of control need to be in place.
Tuberculosis in man and animals is on the increase for a variety of reasons, but there is a clear consensus that the presence of infected badgers is linked to increased prevalence in cattle. The secretary of VAWM, Lewis Thomas and his ex-colleague from the Institute of Animal Health, Archie McDiarmid provided convincing evidence of the need to reduce and control badger populations effectively.
This theme was continued by John Gallagher and Keith Meldrum who discussed prospects for the control of bovine TB. Both of these experts have had many years of experience in government posts and have clear ideas on the control of badgers to achieve higher welfare standards for both badger and cattle populations. It was time to end the procrastination of DEFRA, John Gallagher said, and to implement an effective culling strategy. Recent control trials had not been conducted with the required levels of efficiency and it was now time for urgent action. Keith Meldrum was Chief Veterinary Officer for several years and was heavily involved in the strategy to control BSE in cattle. He described a variety of tactics that need to be adopted by the government to minimise the risk of TB to domestic animals and humans.
The theme of the meeting then moved to parasite control in wildlife and Eric Morgan gave some examples of infections that could be transmitted between wildlife and domestic animals. As for TB, some of these infections can be transmitted to man and for this reason a careful balance must be achieved between domestic and wildlife animals.
Derek Gow gave a passionate appeal on behalf of the beaver. These animals were normal inhabitants of the UK until they were eradicated for no good reason. Beavers, he said, should be reintroduced since there are environmental benefits associated with their presence. Providing effective controls are in place to avoid excessive numbers or damage, the beaver would provide an excellent balance and contribution to the wildlife of the UK. However Lewis Thomas expressed the opinion that their reintroduction would be an ecological disaster for this country.
One species that has re-introduced itself is the Wild Boar, although David Taylor believed that these are not a pure breed and probably have some domesticated pig genes in their make up. David Taylor showed several examples of extensive damage caused by these feral animals and because of disease risk to domestic stock he was unequivocal, in response to a question from Charles Nodder of the National Gamekeepers Organisation, that there was no justification for any reintroduction and existing animals that were not farmed or controlled should be culled.
The final contribution was made by Mark Lloyd from the Anglers Conservation Association who discussed the threat of sheep dips to aquatic life. Both Cypermethrin and Diazinon he believes have caused devastating losses in aquatic species and he believes that the current ban on the use of Cypermethrin should be continued.
The consensus of the delegates was that this was a very successful Symposium that highlighted many of the key points of concern. Tuberculosis is a serious problem in cattle, badgers and to a lesser known extent in deer right now which needs to be brought under control and the meeting called for immediate government action. And the key take home message was that optimum management of wildlife populations was essential to ensure biodiversity, and a high welfare status of individual populations.
For further information contact: Dr Tony Mudd, VAWM Publicity Officer, 01489 890919