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Bioscience. 2019 Feb 1;69(2):125-135. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biy155. Epub 2018 Dec 19.

The Ethics of Eliminating Harmful Species: The Case of the Tsetse Fly.

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Animal, Santé, Territoires, Risques, et Ecosystèmes and Interactions Hôte-Vecteur-Parasite-Environnement dans les Maladies Tropicales Négligées Dues aux Trypanosomatidae research units in The French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development and with the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, in Montpellier, France, as well as the Insect Pest Control Laboratory, Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations-International Atomic Energy Agency Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, Department of Nuclear Application, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna International Centre, in Vienna, Austria.
Human-Environment Systems, at Boise State University, in Boise, Idaho.
Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University, in Corvallis.


Wildlife species harmful to humans are often targets of control and elimination programs. A contemporary example is the tsetse fly, a vector of sleeping sickness and African animal trypanosomosis. Tsetse flies have recently been targeted by a pan-African eradication campaign. If it is successful, the campaign could push the entire tsetse family to extinction. With the emergence of effective and efficient elimination technologies, ethical assessment of proposed elimination campaigns is urgently needed. We examine the ethics of tsetse fly elimination by considering arguments predicated on both the instrumental and the intrinsic values of the species at local and global scales. We conclude that, although global eradication of tsetse flies is not ethically justified, localized elimination campaigns targeting isolated populations are ethically defensible. We urge assessments of this kind be conducted regularly and in context, so that all relevant factors underlying decisions on species elimination are routinely laid bare for evaluation.


Glossinidae; ethics; sleeping sickness; sterile insect technique; trypanosomosis; vector control

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