It’s been said time and time again, the dialogue around ethical hunting and conservation needs to be based around science and education, not emotion. No-one understands this better than Tasmania-based Senior Wildlife Management officer Ellen Freeman.
“It isn’t always easy for people to change their minds, especially when they are fuelled by emotions. It is important to respect all points of view and try to understand them, and also understand why people have that point of view,” Ellen said.
“Letting either side have equal time and space to express their view and reasonings is important.”
Despite being only a few years into her career, Ellen is not new to the sustainable hunting and game management scene.
Raised a hunter, growing up Ellen had a variety of role models in the world of game management including her father, grandfather and Quality Deer Management Association’s very own Brian Murphy.
“My pop was pivotal in the creation of Australian Deer Association in Tasmania and my dad has been an active member in the association for as long as I can remember,” Ellen said.
“In the early 1990s, the Tasmanian Deer Advisory Committee employed Brian Murphy, a wildlife biologist from America, to bring a framework of deer management to Tasmania.
“My dad and pop worked closely with Brian during this time in Quality Deer Management and Property Based Game Management, as well as hunter education and good hunter ethics.
“I absorbed this world and knowledge as I grew older and took all I knew to forge the path I have been on.”
A handful of correspondence courses on game management, her volunteer work at the Game Management Unit in Tasmania (now known as Game Services Tasmania) and a passion for deer took Ellen all the way to Central Queensland University where she studied a Bachelor of Science majoring in ecology and conservation biology.
“In the final year of my bachelor’s I co-authored a research paper — Regulatory control of deer in Australia — which I presented at the Conservation Through Sustainable Use of Wildlife conference in front of global leaders in the field of wildlife management and research,” she said.
“I then completed my Honours on the diet of wild deer in South Australia at the University of Adelaide.”
At the end of her honours studies Ellen found her way back to familiar territory with Game Services Tasmania and grasped the opportunity to launch her professional career as a wildlife management officer.
“I believe I am very fortunate and grateful to be working in the field and role that I am,” Ellen said.
“As a child and young adult, I always looked up to my predecessors and hoped one day I would be working besides them in a similar role.
“I have worked hard to achieve what I have and make myself known and create a good reputation for myself. I still have a long way to go in growing in this field and expanding my knowledge.”
Now a senior wildlife management officer with GST, Ellen deals with the management of partly protected wildlife hunted in Tasmania under game licences or Crop Protection Permits.
Her role entails reporting and making recommendations on various issues surrounding game management.
“I work on research projects – currently, we are working on a statewide ‘census’ of wild deer in Tasmania – and I work closely with clients i.e. landholders, hunters and associated stakeholder groups,” Ellen said.
She also the co-ordinates Waterfowl Identification Testing in Tasmania for hunters wanting to obtain a duck licence and assists in the running of a deer ballot across reserved land opened for deer hunting during Tasmania’s gazetted seasons.
“Hunting, game management and conservation all work hand in hand, and not just for deer but for wildlife in general,” Ellen said.
“Conservation can be for the species being hunted or conserving another species, flora or fauna, that the target species has shown to be impacting. For example, due to their population being imbalanced with the environment or changes to the environment.
“It is not only the action of hunting and taking animals that aids in conservation, it is also funds from hunting, such as hunter fees or taxes, directly funding wildlife and game management, science and conservation. Without the financial revenue from hunting, these programs would never occur.”
Ellen emphasised that hunting was important to game management only when it was delivered with management goals and requirements of the ‘managers’ — the hunters and landholders — and importantly when landholders and hunters respected each other and worked together.
“Hunting is an important tool in overall game and wildlife management, especially since we have a valuable resource of game hunters who are willing to invest time and finances into harvesting game and other wildlife species in order to achieve management goals of the landholders and hunting groups,” she said.
“Globally sustainable hunting plays an important role in conserving species of game and wildlife and the environment in which they exist or do not exist.”
Ellen used the example of native kangaroo being harvested for commercial purposes.
“In various states annual surveys are conducted to determine sustainable quotas for commercial take of kangaroos,” she said.
“It can also be managing elephants in Namibia to ensure their population is sustainable for the environment in which they live — as their habitat is continually decreasing due to human expansions — where elephant hunts are auctioned, and funds are directed back to conservation efforts.”
Ellen said people on a global scale misunderstood sustainable game hunting and its role in conservation and sustainability.
“The Dunning-Kruger Effect explains that people with the least experience in a certain topic will talk about it with the most confidence,” she said.
“As people gain experience, they lose confidence because they realise there is a lot that they do not know.
“When people gain experience and knowledge on the subject, they will gain confidence again but the people with the most experience are few and far in between.
“This is a common occurrence in the world of wildlife management, globally.”
Ellen said in most cases hunting was conducted in sync with the environment, there was a purpose to the hunt and the end product was utilised as much as practicable.
She said hunters were more likely to understand the nexus between conservation and sustainable management game species while anti-hunters were likely to be less informed and more emotive.
“If the emotion was removed and people were able to understand the practicality, science and sometimes need behind the hunt, there may be a shift in these perceptions,” Ellen said.
“Largely people can’t grasp the concept of taking the life of an animal. They don’t take the time to understand the important role hunting plays in management of species and the environment, and in providing an ethical food source for families.
“People are not aware of the care and passion hunters hold for the species they hunt, and ultimately manage (whether it’s managing down or managing for conservation).
“Good ethical hunters know these species, they understand their behaviours, they respect them and are continually learning about them because they care, and they care about the future management and sustainability of the species, dependent on the management goals.
“We have a global movement of people wanting to do better by the environment and their health and they want to harvest their own meat,’’ Ellen said.
“Education on sustainable game hunting needs to be based on science and practical examples and not emotions and personal emotive.”