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Wild-But-Not-Too-Wild Animals: Challenging Goldilocks Standards in Rewilding

By Erica von Essen, Michael P. Allen

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Rewilding is positioned as ‘post’-conservation through its emphasis on unleashing the autonomy of natural processes. In this paper, we argue that the autonomy of nature rhetoric in rewilding is challenged by human interventions. Instead of joining critique toward the ‘managed wilderness’ approach of rewilding, however, we examine the injustices this entails for keystone species. Reintroduction case studies demonstrate how arbitrary standards for wildness are imposed on these animals as they do their assigned duty to rehabilitate ecosystems. These ‘Goldilocks’ standards are predicated on aesthetic values that sanction interventions inconsistent with the premise of animal sovereignty. These include culling, relocations and sterilizations of animals that demonstrate the kind of autonomy championed in rewilding rhetoric. Drawing from Donaldson and Kymlicka’s framework for political animal categories, we conclude by arguing that rewilding needs to re-position itself in one of two ways. Either it should align itself more closely to mainstream conservation and embrace full animal sovereignty without Goldilocks conditions, or it should commit to taking full responsibility for reintroduced animals, including supplementary feeding and care.


Katie Carroll

Date 2016
Publication Title Between the Species
Volume 19
Issue 1
Pages 29
Publisher Cal Poly
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Conservation
  3. human-wildlife interactions
  4. Nature
  5. Philosophy
  6. Reintroduction
  7. Wild animals
  8. wildlife
  9. wildlife conservation
  10. wildlife management