Dr. Elizabeth L. Bennett is the Vice President for Species Conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City. The UK native has a zoology degree from Nottingham University and a PhD from Cambridge University, for which she conducted research on the ecology of primates in Peninsular Malaysia. Upon concluding her academic studies, Bennett spent nearly two decades in Sarawak, Malaysia, including observing Proboscis Monkeys and studying the effects of hunting and logging on wildlife. She also helped to write and implement a comprehensive wildlife policy for the state, which included providing technical input for new wildlife laws and educational programs as well as a plan for Sarawak’s protected area system.
Currently, Bennett oversees WCS’s species conservation programs in more than 60 countries across the globe as well as WCS’s Living Institutions (Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo) throughout New York City. She was awarded a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2005.
In your opinion, what are the three best hunting animals in the world — on land, air, and sea?
Dr. Elizabeth L. Bennett: For the land mammal, I will say Chimpanzees, which people don’t think of as predators, but actually they are very effective and efficient predators — mainly eating monkeys. They like Colobus Monkeys and they hunt collaboratively. It’s mainly the males that hunt, and the different members of the group have different roles. So, some will go in front of the monkeys and hide. Others will then come from different angles and start chasing the monkeys towards the ambushers, which then catch them. They’re very intelligent and very efficient hunters.
For air, it’s the Peregrine Falcon. It mainly eats medium sized birds, and does so by flying high above them and then diving down. It tucks its wings into sides, in what’s called “the stoop.” It flies down at up to more than 200 miles per hour. That makes it the fastest animal on Earth. It uses its foot to hit the bird that’s flying underneath it, stuns it and then catches it. It’s an extraordinary, efficient and fast predator. These days, they’re pretty ubiquitous as well. They supposedly prey on up to one-fifth of all bird species in the world. Lots of birds have to fear them.