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intervention vs interference


Jamie Paterson, Scientific editor

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Intervene (verb)To come in or between so as to affect, modify, or prevent a result, action, etc.

Interfere (verb)To meddle with; to interpose and take part in something, esp. without having the right to do so; to intermeddle.

~ Oxford English Dictionary, 2021

Intervention, interference – should we or shouldn’t we?

A few years ago, I decided to pull an antelope out of the mud of a drying, man-made dam (I was not alone, but my fellow conspirators will have to remain nameless). Until now, only a handful of people knew about this because we were given strict instructions not to help the antelope as per the reserve’s policy. We claimed it had escaped on its own and hid the mud-splattered evidence. We intervened. Quite possibly, we interfered.

From a human perspective, there are times when nature seems abominably cruel. For instance when young animals are allowed just a brief glimpse of their new world before being snatched up by an opportunistic predator. Or when hundreds of wildebeest are crushed beneath the hooves of their fellows crossing the Mara River during the Great Migration and wretched elephants are eaten alive by hyenas while trapped in the dried, cracking mud of dry season Mana Pools. Not for nothing has the phrase “circle of life” become such a popular refrain – for wild animals, death begets life and life almost invariably means a painful, frightening death.

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