Bad Wildlife Science. Who is accountable?


"Black-backed Jackal - Marinovich Photography"

Black-backed Jackal

“600 Jackals massacred in the name of science.” 

As a kid who grew up in South Africa I believed, unwaveringly, in the likes of SANPARKS. They were the guardians of Southern African Nature, backed by science and run by men and women with sound knowledge and unquestionable ethics. They would put our natural environments and species above all else. I believed this until life happened, and I grew up.

Travelling around the world and meeting other conservationists and activists, both in person and through the amazing medium that is social media, it dawned on me that those who have been charged with protecting our natural resources are indeed just flawed human beings like the rest of us. And what is worse, is that they suffer from an inability to admit when they have made mistakes. They surround themselves with scientist friends and colleagues who will help validate their decisions, and thereby divert attention or help cover up any errors made.

The integrity of wildlife science is at risk thanks to unethical behaviour in the name of that exact same science.

An article came across my desk this week about a tragic jackal cull which gave me a reason to wonder who is, in fact, accountable when SANPARKS, CITES, the WWF, and Universities get it wrong and refuse to acknowledge their mistakes. Just who holds them accountable, especially when they make the same mistakes over and over again? Look at the mistakes the WWF and CITES have made since the 1980s with regards Ivory trade. And they continue to employ the same “failed experts” to manage new initiatives.

Most people I engage with hate the concept of culling in the wild. It should always be an extreme act of last resort. But on a planet where we have destroyed so many natural migration routes and ecosystems by erecting fences to keep the wild in, we occasionally have to play God and relocate or destroy animals to manage the balance of the new ecosystem we have created. But, whatever we decide, we must follow the correct protocol of science and ethics. Without these two factors, tragedy will strike again and again.

"Jackal Massacre cull South Africa"

Jackal Heads. Photo Credit: Rob Harrison-White

This is the summarised timeline of the whole issue to date:

  • In 2010 SANPARKS conducted a cull of 300 Black-backed Jackals in three National Parks because they were deemed to be responsible for decimating Springbuck numbers.
  • SANPARKS then disposed of 132 Jackal carcases without any investigation.
  • They then released 2500 Springbucks into one of the parks but within a further six months at least 2000 died, so clearly it was not the fault of the jackals they had slaughtered. SANSPARKS failed to admit the cull was wrong.
  • Notwithstanding the failure, SANSPARKS  and NMMU (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth) scientists A. Gaylard. G. Kerley and L. Minnie once again decide to cull more jackal, and in 2011 – 2013 a further 300 jackals are destroyed.
  • Scientists then published a scientifically fraudulent paper with the Journal of Applied Ecology London in which they were untruthful with respect to the cull data. Seemingly as part of a PHD.
  • Outcries of dismay from other scientists went unheeded until the NMMU were forced to call in an independent academic to mediate. The mediator was not agreed to by both parties with concerns about the person’s neutrality on the issue.
  • In 2015, the Parker Report found that the authors and SANSPARKS were untruthful in not disclosing important information on the jackal massacre, and they also did not have any University ethics approvals to participate in the cull assessments at the time of the culls.
  • Calls to remove this paper have been stalled by the editorial staff of the Journal of Applied Ecology London despite the untruthfulness of the authors even though the Ethics Approval was obtained retrospectively, and after the time of the cull. Clearly, they are content supporting papers without the appropriate Ethics Approvals or truthful data.
  • The NMMU continue to refuse to provide proof of their data set which is scientifically highly questionable.

In summary, it would seem SANSPARKS and the NMMU conducted the second massacre of 300 jackals in 2011 -2013 to gain information to write a paper, even though the experiment in 2010 had proved a failure. 600 of these small dog-like predators have been killed for a flawed and unethical scientific paper and a “bloody” PHD.

How can all those involved still stand their ground on this and say that no mistakes have been made? If they are not accountable for the killing of these jackal. Who is?


"Black-backed Jackal - 600 killed - Marinovich Photograhy

Persecuted Beauties



Articles published on the Campaign Against Canned Hunting website (Published 27 August 2016) (Published 4th August 2016)

Emails between SANPARKS, NMMU and the Journal of Applied Ecology London,  and R.F. Harrison–White from Wildlife Damage – Research and Management

Daily Maverick, South Africa.  Op-Ed by Don Pinnock


"black backed jackal running - marinovich photography"


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