Lessons from the Indonesian Experience
Edited by Michael Faure and Andri Wibisana
Chapter 11: The precautionary principle in wildlife law – theoretical disputes and practical solutions
Trying to protect wildlife one naturally has to deal with a lot of uncertainties. To start with there is only patchy knowledge about the status of wildlife itself: What species, populations and habitat types exist? Where and how are they developing? Are existing ecosystems coherent and sustainable? Often basic data is missing and there is little known about the interaction between the various elements of ecosystems. It is even more difficult to foresee the future: What effect will climate change have on species and habitats? Will certain economical activities have disastrous or only small temporary effects on nature? How will the effects of certain activities cumulate? Dealing with nature is dealing with uncertainties. ‘Nature is not only more complex than we know, it is also more complex than we can know’. Consequently, dealing with wildlife law is dealing with legal concepts to face uncertainties. Usually, two legal concepts are believed to provide at least some answers to the questions that arise with ecological uncertainties: the ecosystem approach and the precautionary principle. Whilst until two decades ago, wildlife law concentrated on the rather passive ad hoc protection of certain ‘hotspots’ of very valuable nature-sites against actual proposed activities, the ecosystem approach tries to identify what conditions are needed to make ecosystems sustainable in the long term and to enlarge their resilience.
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