Ethical Debates in Orangutan Conservation explores how conservationists decide whether, and how, to undertake rehabilitation and reintroduction (R&R) when rescuing orphaned orangutans. The author demonstrates that exploring ethical dilemmas is crucial for understanding ongoing disagreements about how to help endangered wildlife in an era of anthropogenic extinction.
Although R&R might appear an uncontroversial activity, there is considerable debate about how, and why, it ought to be practised. Drawing on in-depth qualitative research with orangutan conservation practitioners, this book examines how ethical trade-offs shape debates about R&R. For example, what if the orphan fails to learn how to be an orangutan again, after years in the company of humans? What if she is sent into the forest only to slowly starve? Would she have been better off in a cage? Could the huge cost of sending a rescued ape back to the wild be better spent on stopping deforestation in the first place? Or do we have a moral obligation to rescue the orphan regardless of cost? This book demonstrates that deconstructing ethical positions is crucial for understanding ongoing disagreements about how to help our endangered great ape kin and other wildlife.
Ethical Debates in Orangutan Conservation is essential reading for those interested in conservation and animal welfare, animal studies, primatology, geography, environmental philosophy, and anthropology.
Introduction: To Save is to Sacrifice
- What Are Ethics?
- Conservation, Welfare, Liberation
- Triage and Trade-Offs
Chapter 1: Orangutans and their Conservation
- Orangutans: A Natural and Cultural History
- Conservation: The Old, the New, and the Ugly
- Pancasila and Palm Oil: Conservation in Indonesia
- Orangutans as Tourism Mascots: Conservation in Malaysian Borneo
- "Please Don’t Set Up Any More!" The NGO Network
- Orangutans in the Anthropocene
Chapter 2: Kill, Incarcerate, or Liberate? Alternatives to Reintroduction
- Orangutan Reintroduction: Conservation Tool or Cry in the Wilderness?
- Replenishing Wild Populations: A Post-Hoc Argument?
- Forest Restoration and Protection: Reintroduction as Political Incentive for Conservation
- Law Enforcement: Is Trade a Cause of Consequence of Orangutan Endangerment?
- Ignoring Displaced Wildlife "Breaks the Hearts of People": Educational Benefits of R&R
- Freedom isn’t Free: The Cost-(In)effectiveness of R&R
- What Counts as Euthanasia?
- Personhood and Penance: Orangutan Rights and Human Responsibilities
- Sentience and Speciesism: The Ethics of Killing Orangutans Versus Other Species
- Surplus and Scarcity: The Practical Problem of Housing Orphaned Orangutans
- Where is "Home"? Orangutans and Nationality
- Life of Luxury or Prison? The Welfare Implications of Captivity Versus the Wild
- Integrity, Islam, and Independence: Wildness as Inherently Valuable
- Weighing Wildness and Welfare
Chapter 3: What is a Rehabilitation Centre? Boundary-Work in Conservation
- What’s in a Name? The Preference for "Rehabilitation Centre" Over "Sanctuary"
- To Breed or Not to Breed? Distinguishing Rehabilitation Centres from Zoos
- Dehuminization and Dualisms: Defining Wildness
- Sustainability and Sacrifice: The Ethics of Wildlife Tourism
- A Tenuous Boundary?
- A Counter Example: Rehabilitation Centre or Release Site?
Chapter 4: Sense and Sentimentality: Emotion in Environmental Ethics
- Eyes and PIEs: The Development of Ethical Stances
- Feelings and Facts: The Relationship Between Emotion and Rationality
- Selfishness and Sacrifice: Two Specific Worries About Emotion in Orangutan Conservation
- Triage and Trouble: More Thought, Not Less Emotion
Chapter 5: No Space on the Ark: Triage in Wildlife Rescue
- Selecting Citizens: Sacrifice and Speciesism in Admission Practices
- Creating Two Problems, or Solving One? The Dilemma of Translocation
- The Sliding Scale
Chapter 6: Wild, Well, or Free? Ethical Debates in Rehabilitation Methods
- Motherly or Tough Love? Negotiating Human-Orangutan Boundaries in Rehabilitation
- Persevering Purity or Process? Mixing Taxa at Release Sites
- Defining Unreleasability: Training, Trauma, and Triage
- Wild Abandon(ment): The Challenges of Post-Release Monitoring
- The "Grey Zone": Healthcare and the Transition to Wildness
- Free or Enslaved? Post-Release Feeding and the Question of Free Will
- Who is the Expert?
Chapter 7: Bosses, Baddies, and "Baby Huggers": The Ethics of Conservation Fundraising
- Oversight and Ownership: Relationships with Foundations and Donor-NGOs
- Palm Oil and Other Dirty Money
- Playing to the "Baby Huggers": Cuteness and Commodification
- Expertise and Ethics: Two Worries About Fundraising
Chapter 8: The "Dark Side": (Un)ethics and Whistleblowing in Conservation
- My Orangutan, Your Orangutan: Narratives of Collaboration and Conflict
- Public or Private Secrets? The Ethics of Whistleblowing
- Should Outsiders Speak Out?
Conclusion: Ethics in the Anthropocene
Alexandra Palmer is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Geography at the University of Oxford, with a background in social anthropology and primatology. Her work centres around ethical dimensions of human relationships with other animals, especially non-human primates. Ethical Debates in Orangutan Conservation is based on her doctoral work at University College London. Her other research has looked at zookeeper–orangutan relationships and ethics and regulation in non-laboratory animal research (including with wildlife).
"Masterfully weaving together rich ethnographic fieldwork with poignant scholarly analysis, Ethical Questions in Orangutan Conservation is a must-read for scholars and practitioners who are willing to stay with the trouble and to consider the real-life dilemmas of saving while sacrificing nonhuman animals in the Anthropocene."
– Irus Braverman, author of Coral Whisperers: Scientists on the Brink
"Via a thoroughly anthropological lens Palmer takes us through the biopolitics of orangutan conservation and much, much more. Her theme of triage and her deft interweaving of multiple intellectual and methodological threads produces an engaging, highly complex, and totally fascinating view into core dilemmas of the Anthropocene."
– Agustín Fuentes, The Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. Professor of Anthropology, Chair of the Department of Anthropology