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About Wildlife Management

What is Wildlife Management?

Wildlife Management in its broadest sense is the science and practice of species conservation and restoration, as well as active management for the wise use of renewable natural resources.

Wildlife management boils down to managing densities of target species: sustaining or increasing numbers of rare or threatened species; reducing excess numbers, controlling or eradicating pest species; or maintaining numbers of a harvested species. A fundamental decision relates to the level of intervention necessary to achieve the stated objectives. Ideally you would not need to intervene at all, just monitor to ensure desirable densities, distributions or population structures are maintained. At the other end of the spectrum are highly intensive interventions such as captive-breeding and reintroduction. The decision concerning the appropriate level of intervention and the assessment of the effects of that intervention are the stuff of day-to-day wildlife management. The information on which to base your decisions and the ways in which you investigate these needs and outcomes derive from the techniques of wildlife management.

Information Sheet

The current Wildlife Management Information sheet is available from the Department of Zoology

Are you an Otago Wildlife Management Graduate?

If so, we'd like to hear from you. We are compiling an up-to-date register of Wildlifers and need your current contact details. Please email them to Phil Seddon at:

Some reasons for studying Wildlife Management at Otago

University of Otago is one of New Zealand's leading research-oriented universities and provides an excellent base for wildlife studies, being within easy reach of largely untouched mountains, fiords, rainforests and wetlands, as well as landscapes modified by agriculture. There are a number of rare or threatened species within a few kilometres of the campus, including albatross, yellow-eyed penguins, native passerines and skinks. The University has a concentration of ecologists active in research on wildlife species and endangered habitats. University staff maintain strong links with conservation and research agencies, both within New Zealand and internationally.

You will be given the opportunity to study the processes and interactions at work in ecological communities, and to develop your understanding of the principles of wildlife population persistence, change, or decline. You will also be provided with a toolkit of techniques with which to gather and analyse information and answer questions about wildlife populations, and you will be challenged to apply your skills to address real-life problems in the messy world of politics, personalities, and penny-pinching. Above all the course emphasises the development of critical thinking, scientific rigour, and a systematic approach to the management of wildlife.

Wildlife students at Otago have become known as “Wildlifers”, which nicely hints at a long-term commitment to wildlife issues.

Career Opportunities

An Otago University qualification in Wildlife Management is an ideal qualification for those seeking employment as:

  • Conservation Officers
  • Fish and Game Officers
  • Pest Control and Resource Managers
  • Scientific Research Technicians
  • Scientific advisers for government and non-government research and conservation organizations.

Around 75% of graduates from recent years have found work in the wildlife management field, while a number of the remaining 25% are completing research degrees or travelling overseas.

Background required

Most of the students taking Wildlife Management have a BSc, a BSc (Honours), or some other diploma or degree course with a significant biology and/or ecology component. The course has also been taken by people from other backgrounds. Recent years have seen Parks and Recreation graduates, vets, engineers, mathematicians, and journalists taking the Postgraduate Diploma.

Applications are also welcome from those already employed in the wildlife or ecological management area and who want to broaden their range of skills and knowledge. Such applicants need not have a university degree but must be confident in, and able to demonstrate, their ability to cope with Postgraduate papers, and they must have at least three years' relevant experience. These students gain from the theory and scholarship of the graduates in their midst and, in return, contribute enormously to the class through their skills and understanding gained in the work place. Both the Postgraduate Diploma or the Master of Wildlife Management can be taken part-time over 2-3 years to allow you to work at the same time as studying.

What will I learn?

The major objective of the Wildlife Management programme is to train students with the skills necessary for employment in some aspect of wildlife or ecological management or research. Other important goals of the course are to develop in students:

  • an understanding of the ecological basis of conservation management.
  • skills in handling, marking, observing and counting wild animals.
  • knowledge of the ecology and behaviour of wild animals in New Zealand.
  • an appreciation of the practical realities of wildlife management.
  • skills in communicating about management and scientific research of ecological communities. Verbal presentations, debating, and scientific report writing are all emphasised and taught.
  • statistical and analytical skills to collect, analyse, and interpret ecological data for wildlife management and research.
  • critical evaluation of existing wildlife management practice and options for the future.
  • an ability to co-operate well in teams, but also to work well on one's own.
  • an appreciation of the different roles and needs of managers and researchers, and the way each can help and gain from the other.

How will I study?

Course content is a mix of seminar/lecture material and "hands-on experience" in the field. Students are responsible for designing and carrying out various wildlife surveys, writing reports, giving talks, and participating in discussions and debates. Guest lecturers provide insights into current wildlife management issues, including large-scale ecological experiments, species restorations, wildlife legislation, community-led conservation and public awareness.

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