Keynote Abstracts

View abstracts from the keynote presenters below. To view the keynote presenters biography, click on their name. 


Emeritus Professor, Zoology, University of Queensland
Date: Tuesday 30 August 2016
Time: 9.30am - 10.00am

Opening keynote address: A sorry tale of sheep, kangaroos and goats

On aerial surveys of kangaroos from the mid-1970s I saw the damage from overgrazing by sheep in the rangelands.  It was obvious that unless total grazing pressure was reduced, rangeland habitat deterioration would continue to the detriment of its economic productivity and its biodiversity, including kangaroos.  But what mechanism could reduce grazing pressure, maintain economic productivity, yet allow rangeland conservation and restoration?  A possible answer was to boost the economic value of kangaroo meat through effective marketing, enough for land owners to benefit directly and also to make it worthwhile to reduce sheep numbers.  Kangaroos would be converted from pest to resource and there would be a conservation benefit from harvesting kangaroos.  That was a persistent theme at the conference 22 years ago. It became known as ‘sheep replacement therapy for rangelands’, and fitted perfectly the ‘sustainable use of wildlife for conservation’ paradigm, a concept then barely in its infancy.  Today I focus on what is now happening in the rangelands.  Kangaroos are still regarded as pests, kangaroo meat is still undervalued, and rangeland degradation continues apace.  Was the proposal to use kangaroo harvesting as a conservation tool a flawed idea, or one limited by prejudices?  Well, there has indeed been ‘sheep replacement’ but, tragically, by goats.  The goat meat industry is booming and history tells us that the rangelands will suffer.  Further, ‘cluster’ fencing, introduced in some areas for wild dog control, is being hailed as a good way to ‘manage’ kangaroos.  The future of the rangelands remains bleak.



Chief Science and Strategy Officer, RSPCA Australia
Date: Tuesday 30 August 2016
Time: 11.00am - 11.30am

How can the welfare of wildlife be protected under a sustainable use model?

For over a decade RSPCA Australia has been advocating for the integration of animal welfare into decision making in wildlife management in Australia, with a necessary focus on the control of invasive species.  The RSPCA’s approach is underpinned by three key principles: that wildlife management should be justifiedeffective and humane.  Management may be justified where it protects the welfare of individual animals, helps conserve a threatened, or endangered native species or reduces adverse impacts on human activities or the environment.  Methods used should effectively achieve the stated aims of management and be as humane as possible, with every effort made to avoid or reduce animal suffering.  A number of important recent advances have improved our understanding and implementation of humane wildlife management, including the development of models and tools that have direct practical applications.  In situations of significant public concern over wildlife management decisions, such as with the removal of large feral herbivores, these tools have proved invaluable in demonstrating best practice and gaining community support for management activities.  This paper discusses the ethical questions raised by the sustainable use of wildlife and examines how the welfare of wild animals can be protected under this model.  Mechanisms to improve humaneness during commercial wildlife removal operations, such as the use of incentives for encouraging compliance, auditing processes and minimum requirements for operator training and competency will be explored.  The importance of objectively measuring the animal welfare impacts of management methods in determining humane outcomes will also be examined.



Deputy Director of Research, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, UK
Date: Tuesday 30 August 2016
Time: 3.10pm - 3.40pm

Working towards the recovery of a declining quarry species: the Grey Partridge in the UK

Numbers of a traditional British quarry species, the Grey Partridge Perdix perdix, have declined by over 90% over the last 50 years and suffered similar declines elsewhere in Europe.  Since the 1970s the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has investigated the causes of the UK decline, identified three main reasons for it (loss of nesting habitat, loss of brood-rearing habitat and increased predation) and experimentally tested solutions compatible with modern farming.  This has resulted in a Grey Partridge management package based on scientifically proven recommendations.  The challenge has become persuading farmers and land managers to adopt the package, and shooting is often a strong incentive.  Central to achieving adoption are demonstration sites to show potential adoptees how appropriate management leads to successful recovery of Grey Partridge numbers.  The first demonstration site was led by GWCT in Hertfordshire.  Within five years the Grey Partridge pair density had increased six-fold.  A second demonstration site was landowner-led in West Sussex under GWCT guidance.  Here the Grey Partridge was virtually extinct and recovery was kick-started by translocation of 9 wild pairs.  Five years later density reached 12.5 pairs per km2, providing sufficient surplus birds in autumn for reinstating a Grey Partridge shoot.  These outcomes are disseminated through the GWCT’s Partridge Count Scheme, and used with increasing success to motivate others to follow suit.  Although we may not restore the Grey Partridge to its former abundance, we can at least reverse the impending extinction threatening it across much of its former UK range.

Nicholas J. Aebischer & Julie A. Ewald



Chief Executive Officer, Delta Waterfowl Foundation and Adjunct Professor at Western University
Date: Wednesday 31 August 2016
Time: 8.30am - 9.00am

Ensuring Abundant Ducks Today and Tomorrow

North American waterfowl are amongst the best studied and intensively managed wildlife species in the world. A fortuitous set of circumstances including favorable moisture, public policy actions and direct conservation and management efforts had total duck breeding estimates in 2015 being at their highest recorded levels since 1955. Yet, waterfowl management lacks control over the large drivers in breeding habitat and resultant duck abundance. That is the focus of this paper.

We explore the basic biological learnings of the past. The documentation that it is vital rate performance on the breeding grounds that are the primary mechanisms for population growth.  Additionally, the key vital rate performance, nest success, has steadily declined. Further, we review historic and current trends in breeding duck habitat and note that the loss of small wetlands, the primary factor in duck production, casts doubt on the future of duck production, as does the losses of nesting cover.

Finally, we summarize the success of waterfowl management, many of which have been the result of policy actions, many times wholly tangential to the objectives of habitat conservation and duck production. From this basis, we outline Delta Waterfowl’s strategies to enhance breeding duck habitat via the creation and augmentation of voluntary, incentive based tools to conserve and enhance duck habitat on working farms and ranches and additionally address low duck production through intensive management.


Chief Executive, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, UK
Date: Wednesday 31 August 2016
Time: 10.30am - 11.00am

Making the most of private stewardship for conservation – a voluntary landscape approach

Research undertaken by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) into the conservation and sustainable use of wild grey partridge in the UK has been transferred into practice via engagement with individual farmers through a combination of demonstration, advice and on-farm, bi-annual counts of grey partridge. Over time this has created a body of 800-1000 farmers who actively manage their farms for wild grey partridge recovery. Many of the management prescriptions developed for grey partridge have proven beneficial to other farmland birds and wildlife, and are now embedded in policy in the form of national Agri-Environment Schemes. This extensive engagement with land managers has given the GWCT insight into how farmers, gamekeepers and other land managers are motivated to undertake management for quarry species, wildlife conservation and environmentally friendly farming. Understanding this psychology has helped GWCT develop voluntary landscape-scale, farmer-led conservation projects which go beyond sustainable use. These have been adopted by Government in England as a model for future conservation and part-funded through Agri-Environment Schemes. An objective of this policy is a greater focus on conservation outcomes rather than outputs, increased longevity, less dependence on continuing subsidy, and, hopefully over time, an increased awareness of the natural capital values inherent in increased wildlife and environmental gain on privately managed land.      



Principal Scientist, Biosecurity Queensland, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Date: Wednesday 31 August 2016
Time:  2.00pm - 2.30pm

Achieving pest control through sustainable wildlife use

Several vertebrate pests are harvested in Australia either commercially or recreationally. For these harvests to alleviate grazing or predation impact and so provide conservation and agricultural benefits, population size needs to be reduced sufficiently. Reductions may be too small, too brief or too localised to keep the population below a damage threshold or to provide only minor benefit to competitor or prey populations. Many species are seen as both a pest and a resource and so while the goals of pest management may not be met, the potentially conflicting goal of harvest sustainability can be comfortably achieved. There are now long-term, broad-scale data on the abundance and harvest of a number of vertebrate pests in the Australian rangelands. Best known is the large harvest of kangaroos that is clearly sustainable on a broad scale, but recent low harvest rates and a strong male bias in the harvest are unlikely to alleviate the perceived negative impacts of kangaroo grazing. Feral goats have been harvested at close to their maximum sustained yield, providing a substantial reduction, whereas the commercial harvest rate of feral pigs is relatively low. The recreational harvest of deer populations has not stopped them spreading. In most cases, economics or recreational value are dictating the removal rate, not the need to manage impact. Other control measures such as non-commercial culling, baiting and fencing are needed to adequately address impact. However, this is costly and may not be feasible or acceptable for these species.


Adjunct Professor Peter Bridgewater

Adjunct Professor, Institute of Applied Ecology and Institute of Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra
Date: Thursday 1 September 2016
Time: 8.30am - 9.00am

Twenty years on: What’s changed; What needs to change?

The short answer to the question posed in the title is surprisingly little; a very great deal. When the previous conference was held the newly ratified Convention on Biological Diversity had yet to hold its first meeting – but there was great expectation that a convention embracing conservation, sustainable use and benefit sharing of biodiversity would change the way we thought and worked in nature conservation.  With few exceptions that hasn’t happened.  And what is true globally is echoed in Australia.  What needs to change is the development of a Creative Conservation with sustainable use of natural resources at its foundation.  And for that to occur an increasingly urbanised community needs to confront the realities of conservation and understand and accept the rapid environmental change we are experiencing will only continue.  For that social change to happen Politicians must lead the community in confronting the issues, not simply respond to the latest pressures with Band-Aid solutions. This keynote will offer some possible ways forward for the next 20 years.



Professor and Head of Department, Department of Nature Conservation, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria
Date: Thursday 1 September 2016
Time: 12.30pm - 1.00pm

The wildlife industry in South Africa

The wildlife industry in South Africa has come of age. With its success based on private landowner control of wildlife and an economic model that allows almost unfettered trade in wildlife the industry has become a significant contributor to the economy as a whole. Fortunately for the country’s private game ranches contribute significantly to the countries conservation estate – the backbone of the ecotourist industry. With its success and an evolving new South Africa the industry has diversified significantly into a number of specialist areas sparking a national debate on the future direction of the industry with attendant problems of official attempts at controlling the industry and practices in industry deemed to be contrary to purist conservation ideals. 
What is important to note is that the industry has a responsibility to itself and the country to foster best practice in an industry that appears to have unlimited growth potential. This paper will give an overview of the history of this industry and of risks and dilemmas confronting the industry and the conservation establishment in guiding this industry towards greater heights and contributions to the country’s economic development.


Emeritus Professor Anthony R.E. Sinclair

Emeritus Professor, University of British Columbia
Date: Thursday 1 September 2016
Time: 4.10pm - 4.50pm

Rewilding human-dominated landscapes for conservation and sustainable use

Three themes emerge from long term research around the globe. First, the diversity of species is important in maintaining stability in the system. So if we lose species, as in agriculture we create instability. Second, due to continuously changing environments ecosystems are always changing. This means that static boundaries around Protected Areas will not be sufficient for long term conservation. Third, disturbances in ecosystems (fire, floods, agriculture) can cause a rapid change in state from one species community to another. Consequently Protected Areas are necessary but not sufficient for the conservation of biota. Restoration of human-disturbed landscapes must now become a priority. Use of these landscapes for sustainable offtake is encouraged through the restoration of original biota. I describe how to predict how long rewilding will take and whether it will be successful.


Managing Director, Wildlife Management International

Special guest  - Conference Dinner speaker
Date: Wednesday 31 August 2016
Pre-dinner drinks: 6.30pm - 7.00pm
Dinner: 7.00pm - 11.00pm
Click here for further information

Grahame Webb finished his PhD in zoology (UNE) in 1973 and started working on crocodiles in the NT, initially with Harry Messel (UNSYD) and later as a consultant (Wildlife Management International Pty. Limited).  As the depleted populations of saltwater crocodiles in the NT recovered, and human-crocodile conflict re-established itself, Grahame Webb was the architect of the sustainable use program that gave NT landowners and the community commercial benefits from crocodiles - incentive-driven conservation. In the early 1980's the NT's right to use crocodiles again was bitterly contested, and the science and biopolitical skills needed to overcome this, led to Grahame Webb's involvement in many different political charged conservation conflicts around the world, particular within the CITES arena. Grahame Webb's recent book, "Wildlife Conservation: In the Belly of the Beast", has been widely acclaimed as a "must read" for people considering careers in international wildlife conservation. His talk draws heavily on the book's content.