Wild places: The ethical, legal and logistical trials and tribulations of a wildlife researcher

The life of the wildlife researcher is glamorised by the media, and as such the public perception of wildlife research is quite often markedly different from that of laboratory research. In some respects this perception is well-justified, with most wildlife studies related to animal welfare and conservation, and so benefits are assessed and understood more easily than blue-sky laboratory research. However, the harms to the animals involved in such studies are much harder to control and quantify, with field studies carrying multiple risks for their subjects and their surrounding wildlife. Under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (ASPA) the harm-benefit analysis is the cornerstone of the licensing system, but with wildlife research there are so many grey areas it is sometimes difficult to determine what is regulated under ASPA, how it is regulated, and even whether the regulations are appropriate for a wild animal. There is also a complex web of other legislation affecting wildlife research, such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act (which protects some but not all wild animals), the Animal Welfare Act, and legislation aimed at biodiversity and environmental protection like the Invasive Species Act. In this presentation I will discuss how ASPA and the different forms of legislation knit together to protect our wildlife and attempt to signpost issues that a wildlife researcher should be considering in an ever-changing environment.