Wildlife Conservation - In the Belly of the Beast

Professor Graham Webb's new book, Wildlife Conservation - In the Belly of the Beast, breaks new ground in our understanding of wildlife conservation - locally, nationally and internationally.

Published by Charles Darwin University Press, the 45 chapters (342 pages) are a journey of understanding into the heart of wildlife conservation, as seen and told by someone who has "been there and done that".

Printed on high quality paper with excellent colour reproduction, the book is isslustrated with 30 excellent photographs and 87 of the author's original cartoons.

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Copies of "Wildlife Conservation - In the Belly of the Beast" (published by Charles Darwin University Press) are now available! Please click here to download a Within Australia Order form. If you live outside Australia, please contact us to receive an Outside Australia Order form. Simply email and attach your Order form to crocpark@wmi.com.au to get your copy today!


Well known for his pioneering work on crocodilian conservation and research around the world, Professor Webb is equally respected internationally for his contribution to the role of sustainable use in conservation. He has been personally involved in some of the most controversial conservation issues (whales, elephants, sea turtles, seals, fisheries, sharks, snakes and more), and with the people and organisations championing all sides of the highly charged debates.

The book's 45 chapters (342 pages) are illustrated in colour with 87 of the author's original cartoons and 30 photographs, that stroll into the "dark side" of conservation. But the book also has a very serious side. Anyone with a general interest in wildlife will find this book both interesting and challenging.

The book starts by establishing what is and what is not wildlife conservation (12 chapters), and then examines the critical role that knowledge has and should play in conservation (7 chapters) - despite it being eroded and threatened continually by "biopolitics".

Crocodile case histories (3 chapters) examine the conservation and management of world crocodilians at local, national and international levels. Risk and uncertainty have been the constant companions of effective crocodilian conservation, with boldness and adaptive management the two pillars of success.

Scrutiny of some of the other wildlife conservation battlegrounds around the world (6 chapters) highlights the uneasy interplay that often exists between science and politics. In some cases, efforts to enhance conservation have failed for the wrong reasons - the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The key players and perceptions in conservation (8 chapters) are probed, along with the assumptions that the public seem to accept somewhat uncritically. The gulf between rural and urban people over wildlife values is getting bigger and bigger - for the wrong reasons.

Rare insights into the underbelly of wildlife conservation come from examining the international arenas within which wildlife conservation battles are fought, and the strategies used within them by opposing sides (6 chapters). Pivotal in these conflicts is the role of the media, which can either fuel conflict or help build bridges between opposing sides.

"Righting the Wrongs" (3 chapters), examines how to be more vigilant about conservation spin and hype, so that the real problems at hand can be assessed more objectively. In conservation, these are often "wicked problems", with so many interacting variables that simple solutions will rarely work. If we heed messages in this book, the "way forward" should be better than the "way back".

"The Beast", as Professor Webb sees it, is the real world of wildlife conservation, as distinct from the sanitised view to which the public is often exposed. His main goal in writing the book was to "stimulate others to think in more depth about conservation", and there is little doubt that this has been achieved.

Contact points:
Author: Grahame Webb (gwebb@wmi.com.au)
Author (2): Giovanna Webb (gcortes@wmi.com.au)
Crocodylus Park: Charlie Manolis (cmanolis@wmi.com.au)



Copies of "Wildlife Conservation - In the Belly of the Beast" (published by Charles Darwin University Press) are now available - simply contact crocpark@wmi.com.au to receive a Within Australia Order form (if you live within Australia) or an Outside Australia Order Form (if you live outside Australia).


What Reviewers are Saying!

Wildlife Conservation - In the Belly of the Beast should be compulsory reading for every member of the IUCN's Species Survival Commission, every delegate to CITES and all NGOs working with wildlife conservation ... Emeritius Professor Harry Messel AC, CBE; former IUCN-SSC Vice Chair and CSG Chair.

A provocative and insightful documentary of wildlife management challenges over the past 30 years. Analytical, non-emotional and highly readable. This is abook for the future. A significant legacy for future generations dealing with these issues. A must read for anyone who packs up their briefcase and heads off to some foreign destination to solve environmental problems! ... Donald MacLauchlan, former International Resource Director, USA Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, USA.

Refreshing, straightforward, and tells the Conservation through Sustainable Use story in a remarkably unbiased way. Will definitely be using it as a teaching text ... Dr. Brian Child, Wildlife Economist, Center for African Studies, University of Florida, USA.

This book is seriously brilliant in content and ought to be read by all who care about conservation. The frank desciptions of human issues in conservation will both enthrall and offend - but is both brave and important for encouraging more effective conservation paradigms in the future. Everyone from expert to novice will learn things from this book that will subtly change their perceptions ... Professor Robert Kenward, Chair of IUCN-SSC's European Sustainable Use Specialist Group; CEH Fellow, Natural Environment Research Council, UK. [A more detailed review by Professor Kenwood is available in SULi News (Issue 8, May 2014) (http://www.iucn.org/about/union/commissions/sustainable_use_and_livelihoods_specialist_group/sulinews/issue_8/sn8_tasterreview/).

Packed full of important insights into how wildlife conservation works at local, national and international levels. Grahame Webb has been there, experienced it, and is a skilled and eloquent teacher and communicator. Everyone with a professional interest or involvement with wildlife conservation will learn something from thuis unique but important book ... Dr. Wan Ziming, Director, Law Enforcement and Training Division, CITES Management Authority of China.

A major achievement in scope, setting before readers the wide canvas of issues they need to consider if conservation policies and practices are to adequately deal with man's use of this planet in the 21st century. It is also highly readable, mixing the empirical and the conceptual in a cocktail of cartoons, anecdotes, scientific evidence and candid analyses. My favourite quote is: "the love of wildlife, in the absence of the love of people, is unlikley to achieve much" (p. 328). I'm afraid that a relatively small proportion of the world's population will continue to extract most of the value from nature, unless land and wildlife policies are democratised. A vast task - but a good, well-circulated book of this quality and content can contribute to this goal ... Professor Marshall Murphree, Professor Emeritus of Applied Social Science, University of Zimbabwe.

A wonderful book! Having been directly involved in the coordination of sustainable use projects on various wildlife species in my country (Argentina) over decades, and still participating nationally and internationally in discussions about the wide scope of sustainable use, and the education challenges of conveying the underlying ideas and principles, I was delighted to come across such a useful piece of work. It has abundant material for thought. The examples and experiences described are readily comparable and transferrable to the Latin American reality. I have great empathy with this book, rarely found - plus the style and the illustrations are great ... Victoria Lichtschein, former Director of Wild Fauna and Flora, which included CITES Scientific and Management Authorities of Argentina, and later Biodiversity Coordinator.

"Webby" is a well-known champion in the field of crocodilian conservation and management. He has been exposed to the international politics of conservation, including CITES and IUCN Red Listing, with a range of other wildlife species. based on his vast experience, the book is full of important insights and innovative approaches. He clearly defines the difference between conservation and protection. His book should be published in different languages ... Professor Yoshio Kaneko, Iwate Prefectural University, Japan.

This book is a breath of fresh air in the stuffy world of scientific correctness. Grahame Webb should be congratulated for alerting the world about the senseless mind games that are played over the world's wildlife resources and the impacts such folly has on sustainable use and true wildlife conservation. Indeed the take-home message came from Grahame's late father - "bs is bs no matter whether it comes from the highest or lowest person in the land" ... Associate Professor Graham Hall, University of New England, Australia.

A delightful read that tackles with wit and razor-sharp intellect some of the most confounding obstacles that prevent sustainable wildlife management in an increasingly sanitised world. Based on several decades of on-the-ground experience, it very effectively challenges many common illusions about what many think may be best for some of our most cherished wildlife. The book is an absolute must for all who care to take a critical look at many of the current consrvation practices ... Max Abensperg-Traun, Head of the CITES Management Authority, Austria; former research scientist, CSIRO Australia.

Easy to read and illustrated with cartoons, synthesizes 40 years of the authors experience with wildlife conservation, and his reflections upon it. Each chapter develops a specific topic, often introducing iconoclastic and pragmatic ideas that challenge in a convincing way conventional relationships between humans and wild animals ... Dr. Samuel Martin, wildlife veterinarian, France.

Grahame Webb dives into the murky world of biopolitics and methodically teases apart some of the most complex conservation issues of our times. He explains these serious issues in a refreshingly simple way, at times laughable. The author challenges our sensitivities, explaining how many actions implemented with the goal of helping wildlife conservation have in fact hindered it. The clever use of cartoons to illustrate key points makes this book an entertaining "must read" for anyone interested in or involved in the sustainable use of natural resources. It should be compulsory reading for all conservation legislators ... Rod Drew, Chief Executive Officer, Field and Game Australia Inc.

Grahame Webb has personally achieved much for conservation over many years, and in this book deftly combines experiences on the ground and in debates - national and international- to describe an unsettling scenario. Conservation has become a maelstrom of conflicted interest groups, with science shifted to the background, and the harmful consequences of some conservation actions, to wildlife and local peoples, overlooked. Wildlife Conservation: In the Belly of the Beast is a modern account of conservation that should be read by everyone with a genuine interest in conservation ... Dr Brendan Moyle, MNZIF, Massey University, New Zealand; former chair of the IUCN-SSC ANZ Sustainable Use Specialist Group.

The commentary on bio-politics, supported by many clever cartoons, make stimulating reading. The book contains important messages and should be read by everyone involved in the management of fish and wildlife populations ...
Emeritus Professor John C. Briggs, University of South Florida, USA.

Written by a true leader in global wildlife conservation, "The Beast" is an insightfully down-to-earth book that unravels the rules of the game by telling it how it is. A must read for anyone with an interest in wildlife conservation ...
Daniel Natusch, Director of Resource Development Limited, Australia.

An excellent work, which could arguably do more for the conservation of wild resources than recent discussions within CITES and other fora, and statements like the "London Declaration". It needs to be properly implemented in the field, in cooperation with local communities, to achieve maximum benefits ...
Jaques Berney, IWMC World Conservation Trust.

Thoughtful insights, based on research and decades of experience, about wildlife conservation, sustainable use, biopolitics and the interactions between all three. Grahame Webb tells it like it is. A recurring theme in this book is that wildlife conservation is complicated by public confusion (often caused by NGO fundraising campaigns) over what constitutes real problems in wildlife conservation versus perceived problems in animal rights and welfare. His pragmatic approach to wildlife conservation issues requires respect for the culture and customs of local people and communities. A must-read for conservationists real or otherwise ...
Dan Goodman, Counsellor, The Institute of Cetacean Research, Tokyo;  and, Visiting Researcher, Fisheries Research Agency, Government of Japan. Formerly Senior Policy Advisor (marine mammals) Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Government of Canada).

A very readable, thoughtful and personal look at modern conservation. Webb's broad experience in a diversity of wildlife issues, comfortable style, and not least the very amusing cartoons, make this book a valuable contribution to the history, theory and real-world practice of conservation. Webb draws useful distinctions between different kinds of "conservationists" and their motivations and illustrates his thesis with numerous examples drawn from his work with crocodiles, CITES, sea turtles, aboriginal traditional owners, international business people and the conservation and animal welfare NGO communities. His thoughts will cheer his colleagues, annoy his critics and inform a new generation of conservation practitioners - and the global conservation endeavor will be enriched as a result ...
Dr. James Perran Ross, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida (ret.).

This book is wonderful and rich, telling a complex story in plain English. To understand and conserve natural resources, one first has to understand the nature of humanity and the context in which humanity interacts with natural resources, for without these, there really is no issue. We live in a conservation world that constantly strives to ignore or remove the human element. The wisdom of the author’s father has direct application to conservation: if you put enough time and effort into thinking about any problem, you will eventually come up with a simple solution that will better last the test of time and of course: "Bullshit is bullshit, no matter whether it comes from the highest or lowest person in the land". And then there are the author's various personal stories, amongst which my favourite is: "are you a fucking greenie" ...
Dr. Michael Murphree, Deputy-Chairman, IUCN-SSC Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group.

Wildlife Conservation: In the Belly of the Beast is the most exciting biopolitical treatise that I have read over the past 35 years. Grahame Webb is in a unique and believable position to comment on the complexities of managing the world's natural resources. Unless you have been in shoes like his, it is impossible for most practitioners to understand the interactions involved in ensuring that not only do the planet's natural resources prosper, but the people that depend on them do also. Walter Scott's rebuke - "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive" - is a central thesis to Grahame Webb's work. From the animal rights movement, to subsistence hunting, to international intrigue surrounding wildlife management, Dr. Webb explains it all. Many of the decision-makers in the arena of wildlife and human conservation are swayed more by the politics of the situation than by an honest evaluation of and knowledge of the scientific facts. Unfortunately, even pillars of knowledge such as CITES make decisions that are steeped in politics rather than the scientific process that guides them. If this book had been available at the beginning of my career, it would have been mandatory reading for all of my employees. When you read Wildlife Conservation: In the Belly of the Beast
, take off the blinders of your personal experiences. Wildlife and the public that depend on it, can only survive, if we practice sound scientific methods with an understanding of the importance of ensuring that all of us share the benefits of a sustainable world ... Dr. Bruce Taubert (retired) former roles: Director of Wildlife for the Arizona Game and Fish Department; Chief of Fisheries for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Vice-Chair International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA); International Affairs Committee; Standing member of the Joint Federal/State Policy Committee and the Federal and Tribal Relations Committee.

This book has given me terms, definitions, frameworks and more, with which to better understand my frustration and sometimes anger about the debates we are often unwillingly involved in. Very therapeutic ... Simon Boag, CEO, South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association, Australia.

This book examines most major wildlife conservation issues of importance, globally, over the last 30 years. It is a probing investigation with practical and common sense guidance about conservation, sustainable off-take, the history of species abundance, the perceptions of different players and much more. Armchair critics are to be expected, but this book is important to all who are interested in wildlife conservation and management ... Peter Teakle, Director Habitat and Hunting (South Australia), Field and Game Federation of Australia.

The book is the very best I have read on the biopolitics in the modern wildlife conservation arena. It is full of jewels that provide crucial understanding with explicit examples of the principles and practices underpinning conservation today. The uncommon insight is complemented by cartoons that further demonstrate and help explain and define everything from "wicked" practices of animals rights to subterfuge to cause provocation and moral "outrage". Learn what fur has in common with chocolate. It is a must reading for all levels of conservationists and policy makers in today's wildlife conservation world that has become complex, confusing and full of growing conflict ... John J. Jackson III, Chair and President, Conservation Force, USA.


The Official Launch (13 March 2014)


The Honourable Sally Thomas, AC
Administrator of the Northern Territory
Government House, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

"Ladies and gentlemen, family and friends of Grahame, warm greetings of welcome to Government House this evening. I would like to begin by acknowledging the Larrakia people, traditional owners of the land on which this historic house stands.

I, like many people in the Northern Territory, associate Professor Grahame Webb with one of his fields of expertise - crocodiles. This carefully researched book Wildlife Conservation - In the Belly of the Beast is much more than that.

It is a window into the lifelong journey that Grahame has been on throughout his 40+ years of researching, writing about and working with animals. The book is injected with passionate observations and strong lines of argument on the problems associated with the large and thorny issue of wildlife conservation management.

Grahame has defined conservation as being "the sum total of actions taken to preserve and maintain items to which we attribute a positive value" (p. 4). These items of positive value explored by Grahame include animal products from shark fin through to fur. As we well know, each of these can trigger an emotional response from a wide range of people in the community. Grahame navigates his way through these issues with great skill, using his research, his razor sharp mind and his personal experiences as his compass.

I quote from the preface as to the author's aim in writing this book - "My goal has not been to give a balanced view of the pros and cons of wildlife conservation, but rather highlight areas where I think there are serious moral, ethical, scientific and logic problems, which in the end will constrain rather than enhance wildlife conservation. The aspirations of conservationists may indeed be pure, like those of many priests and religious workers, but it does not make them right. Conservation campaigns based on winning at all cost assume the end will justify the means. Not so if the means hurts the wrong people for the wrong reasons” (p. XVI).

In the chapter titled “Historical Precedents”, Grahame canvasses conservation problems that have arisen throughout history and concludes - "What history does tell us is that there is no simple solution to wildlife conservation problems. Successful solutions… are as varied as the culturally diverse people who implement them. The idea that a single imposed conservation strategy embedded in the politically powerful values of the West, often blind to culture and tradition, can achieve the same thing is highly questionable” (p.36).

Chapter 19 explores “The Role of Science in Conservation” and Grahame emphasises the dangers of scientists fabricating results or allowing their results to be misinterpreted without objection. We are given a delightful quote by the French scientist Marie Eugène Chevreul who, on his 100th birthday in 1886, said: "Scientists should strive to be infallible without claiming to be".

Grahame raises his many concerns about how science can be either misused or ignored in making political decisions. He emphasises that "managing and conserving wildlife is more about understanding and managing people than it is about understanding wildlife. Wildlife conservation issues are mostly people issues".

The book contains a chapter on animal rights, which will no doubt raise some controversy, and there is also considerable discussion around “Sustainable Use” including how this relates to the challenge of over fishing and meat consumption.

Grahame discusses such issues as “The Dilemma of Feral Animals” (Chapter 31) and “Marketing Conservation” (Chapter 34). In Chapter 38, he refers to the famous story “The Boy who Cried Wolf” in Aesop’s Fables and decries the problems that arise when the truth on conservation issues is exaggerated or twisted.

In chapter 44 of his book titled “Wicked Problems”, Grahame draws together the many threads of discussion and concludes that "Regardless of how simple and elegant a proposed solution to a problem may be, the degree to which it truly makes advances in solving the problem can only ever be resolved by objective testing, ideally aimed at disproving the utility of the solution. This is the very essence of science, which remains the most powerful tool in the human arsenal of problem-solving devices in wildlife conservation” (p. 327).

The final chapter titled “The Way Forward” leaves a lasting impact with its message. But I think I should let you read that for yourself.

In addressing these issues, and despite their seriousness, Grahame has managed to inject colour and humour into the pages of the book. He does this through his skilled and insightful cartoons and his many and varied personal stories.

Wildlife Conservation - In the Belly of the Beast will likely create some controversy and opinions will differ. However it does exude Grahame’s passion for the truth and, as he argues, conservation management should be based on sound scientific evidence whilst having regard to cultural diversity. Congratulations Grahame. This is quite an achievement. I invite you to come and share with us your thoughts on this important book."

The Honourable Sally Thomas, AC, Administrator of the Northern Territory (centre), with Giovanna Webb (left) and Professor Grahame Webb (right), at the official launch of "Wildlife Conservation - In the Belly of the Beast".