University of Cambridge > > History and Economics Seminar > Peter Pan Pachyderms? What a doomed experiment to reintroduce elephants taught us about animal cultures

Peter Pan Pachyderms? What a doomed experiment to reintroduce elephants taught us about animal cultures

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr AM Price.

Joint meeting with the World History seminar.

History – as I hope I will illustrate – can play a role in addressing current global biodiversity crises, revealing the shifting dynamics of conservation dilemmas and thereby help in shaping more effective responses. History can be useful in conservation: it can fuse ecological, political, social and economic data into explanatory narratives of change over time. It can explore successful initiatives but also expose the failures precipitated by unintended blowback from failed efforts. The long roots of (human) coping strategies may be learned from cultures with long memories of traditional ecological knowledge. But this talk suggests something much bolder: that we should look at changing cultures of the animals themselves. I suggest how these might be reconstructed and how they might be useful in conservation efforts. I contend that animal behaviours can change over time and be locally-specific, with sentience, sociality and individuality playing a role. I explore the deep connections between people and animals, troubling the persistent and dangerous idea that human–wildlife relationships are of only subordinate significance relative to ‘pristine’ or nonhuman interfaces (in biological/ecological research, in conservation projects, or in how we envision ‘Nature’ more broadly). I show how historicizing elephants and human-wildlife relations helps avoid romanticizing them. Essentially, I contend that animals have history. And those histories matter to their futures.

This talk is part of the History and Economics Seminar series.

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