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Across the world, invasive species pose a danger to ecosystems. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity ranks them as a major threat to biodiversity on par with habitat loss, climate change and pollution.
Tackling this isn't easy, and no one knows this better than Hugh Warwick, a conservationist who loathes the idea of killing, harming or even eating animals. Yet as an ecologist, he is acutely aware of the need, at times, to kill invasive species whose presence harms the wider environment.
Hugh explores the complex history of species control, revealing the global movement of species and the impacts of their presence. Combining scientific theory with gentle humour in his signature style, he explains the issues conservationists face to control non-native animals and protect native species – including grey and red squirrels on Anglesey, ravens and tortoises in the Mojave Desert, cane toads in Australia and the smooth-billed ani on the Galapagos – and describes cases like Pablo Escobar's cocaine hippos and the Burmese python pet trade.
Taking a balanced and open approach to this emotive subject, Hugh speaks to experts on all sides of the debate. How do we protect endangered native species? Which species do we prioritise? And how do we reckon with the ethics of killing anything in the name of conservation?
Chapter One: Hedgehogs
Aside: Cane toads
Chapter Two: Residents
Aside: Capercaillie and the pine marten
Chapter Three: Squirrels
Chapter Four: Lundy
Chapter Five: Scilly
Chapter Six: Orkney
Chapter Seven: Minkicide
Chapter Eight: Keepers
Aside: Cocaine hippos
Chapter Nine: New Zealand
Aside: Scottish wildcat
Chapter Ten: Compassionate conservation
Aside: Fortress conservation
Chapter Eleven: Manifesto for ethically consistent conservation
Hugh Warwick is an ecologist, writer and hedgehog expert. He is the author of three non-fiction narratives: A Prickly Affair, The Beauty in the Beast and Linescapes, and two books on hedgehogs and beavers. He has written for BBC Wildlife, New Scientist, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, and has spoken about wildlife protection on national television and radio. Hugh is the spokesperson for the Hedgehog Preservation Society and runs courses on hedgehog conservation.
"Fascinating, intelligent and indispensable: Hugh Warwick tackles a crucial and difficult subject that has been avoided for far too long, and does so with style, insight and verve."
– George Monbiot
"It's hard to think of a more companionable guide to some of conservation's thorniest thickets than Hugh Warwick. Cull of the Wild is a journey navigated with courage, curiosity and compassion. Every nature lover should read it."
– Amy-Jane Beer
"With his customary good humour and grace, Hugh Warwick has tackled the knotted issues entailed in the control and culling of so-called pest species. While he might conclude that the matters themselves are invariably complex, his own approach is always clear and grounded in deep reflection."
– Mark Cocker
"The perfect introduction to the darker side of conservation, which Hugh Warwick explains with reverence and humour. A must read!"
– Kate Bradbury
"A crucially important book on a huge and urgent subject. Hugh Warwick is the perfect person to deal with this difficult and controversial issue, which few, if any, others would be brave enough to tackle."
– Stephen Moss
"This is a fascinating book which speaks volumes about its author: his tremendous erudition, his huge range of experience, his wit, his bonhomie, and above all his humility and determination to live as ethically as life allows."
– Nick Acheson