S01E12: Cole Burton on Charismatic Animals and How to Live with Them

Listen to the Ways of Knowing Podcast on YouTube

In this episode, Kalina Christoff is joined by Cole Burton, an Assistant Professor in UBC’s Department of Forest Resource Management. Professor Burton is an expert on wildlife conservation who studies ‘charismatic megafauna’ – large-bodied terrestrial mammals, such as caribou, wolves, and lions. We humans love displaying those animals on our coins, calendars and stamps, but we are not very good at living alongside them. Prof. Burton discusses the evolving narrative around conservation: from the currently dominant approach of the protective isolation of wildlife, to the potential for closer human-animal coexistence. He shares his thoughts on the complex relationship between human activity and conservation, touching on topics such as overpopulation, overconsumption, COVID-19, and whether conservation is compatible with ideologies of limitless economic growth.

Listen to this episode to learn about the opportunities and challenges we face in our coexistence with wildlife, and the importance of working with local communities to create solutions that work for all of us — including the animals that we love, but are simultaneously driving toward extinction.

Links to content mentioned in this episode:

UBC Media Relations (2019). Habitat restoration alone not enough to support threatened caribou. University of British Columbia.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum (2019). Eyes in the Wild.

Alberro, Heather (2020). Why we should be wary of blaming ‘overpopulation’ for the climate crisis. The Conversation.

The WildCAM network.

The iNaturalist program.