Rural Queensland, Australia

Difficult Topics in Conservation: Managing Invasive Species

Stories of ecosystem recovery offer opportunities to celebrate the work of scientists, volunteers, and communities coming together to restore natural spaces. But sometimes, saving species calls for difficult choices. 

Native species in Australia are being decimated by non-native predators, many of which were introduced by European settlers hundreds of years ago. Threatened sea turtle populations are most at risk from invasive foxes, and a high priority for conservationists and biologists is to  protect the turtles from these predators.

Unlike in North America and Europe, where foxes are a native species that has evolved in coexistence with other local wildlife, foxes were introduced to Australia by European colonists for sport. With no natural checks against their population growth, the fox population surged and began to wreak havoc on native species—including sea turtles, ground-nesting birds, and marsupials, which have no natural defenses against them. Altogether, invasive foxes kill approximately 300 million native animals in Australia each year

The episode Wild Hope: Canine Conservationists features a team of biologists and their dog companions who search for fox dens. When foxes are located, they are humanely killed. This method of culling the fox population is fully supported by indigenous leaders who cherish sea turtles and other native creatures, and it has been endorsed by top Australian biologists and conservationists.

We understand this aspect of the sea turtle conservation story can cause discomfort for those who love nature and all its creatures. It can be difficult to balance our empathy for wild animals, such as foxes, against the need to protect ecosystems that are harmed by their invasive presence. But the threat of invasive foxes in Australia is dire, and extensive research supports culling as the approach most likely to succeed in protecting turtles and other native Australian species.
Restoring native biodiversity is a monumental challenge. Each ecosystem is unique, as are the threats each one faces. At Wild Hope, we aim to highlight a wide range of challenges and conservation approaches. And while the journeys themselves can sometimes be difficult, we believe that taken together, these stories give us reason to be hopeful about the future of the wild, and our ability to protect it.