ABSTRACT

The question of problem animals in Australia is often framed in language that has nothing to do with either science or conservation management, but is rather about nationalism and popular culture. The need to attract funding for conservation can often lead to framing problems as ‘national’, yet caring for nature can be done on many scales, and ecological systems is seldom work on national scales. This paper considers both ecological scales (regulated by the animal or plant under consideration) and personal scales (scales meaningful to the conservation manager). The idea that only certain sorts of conservationists can ‘care’ can itself become the problem where conservation groups care, but care differently, and spend time and effort fighting each other, rather than improving ecological outcomes for the animals and plants they care about. Examples discussed include kangaroos in Canberra and cane toads in northern Australia. Changing some inflammatory language and finding more productive uses for the animals culled may enable more inclusive conservation efforts, and engage more hands to help. Macho and military eradication efforts may get in the way of caring for the country, or the animals displaced by invaders. Wasteful practices give conservation a bad name. Better ‘metaphors for environmental sustainability’ (Larson, 2011) can lead to better outcomes for the environment and for those who care for it. The task of conservation demands more than science: it is rewarding for many of the people who undertake it. Conservation is an opportunity for service that many volunteers welcome.

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