Are Pioneering Coyotes, Jackals and Foxes Alien Species? Canid Colonists in the Changing Conservation Landscape of the Anthropocene
Forthcoming in Oryx: The International Journal of Conservation
6 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2018
Date Written: September 12, 2018
The pervasive influence of human agency on biodiversity in the Anthropocene gives rise to several fundamentally new challenges for national and international law in the field of conservation, including questions regarding what is ‘natural’ and what is ‘alien’. Ultimately, a new vision and new rules are called for, but in the meantime wildlife lawyers and other conservation professionals must work with conventional legal frameworks. Striking instances where vexing issues arise are the recent range expansions of certain canids. Coyotes (Canis latrans) and crab-eating foxes (Cerdocyon thous) in the Americas and golden jackals (Canis aureus) in Europe are progressively colonizing areas and countries where they did not occur before. A key question is whether to consider this as acceptable extensions of natural range, or whether the pioneering carnivores should be viewed as (invasive) alien species, potentially triggering legal obligations of prevention, control and eradication. In addressing this question we draw on guidance provided under the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international legal frameworks, where governments are forced to grapple with the application of long-standing concepts to new phenomena in an era of global change. Our analysis suggests that coyotes in Costa Rica, crab-eating foxes in Panama, and golden jackals in the Netherlands – to name some examples – are not to be considered as alien species, whether invasive or not. Thus, even if action to address adverse impacts by the advancing canids on (other) native biodiversity may sometimes be desirable, they are not subject to legal requirements to combat invasive alien species.
Keywords: anthropocene, carnivores, coyote, crab-eating fox, golden jackal, international law, invasive alien species, range expansion
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