The twin notions that:
wild animals are worthy of moral concern
the nature of wild animals (constant near starvation, predation, illness) may lead to net negative lives for many many animals
And the questions that arise from these notions as to our obligations.
A speculative #effective altruism cause area.
Early texts on Wild Animal Welfare
From “Kindness to Animals in Ancient Tamil Nadu” (quotes, unchecked)
“The King saw a peacock shivering in the rain. Being compassionate, he immediately removed his gold laced silk robe and wrapped it around the peacock”
And from the same work:
One day, Chibi—a Chola king—sat in the garden of his palace. Suddenly, a wounded dove fell on his lap. He handed over the dove to his servants and ordered them to give it proper treatment. A few minutes later, a hunter appeared on the scene searching for the dove which he had shot. He realized that the King was in possession of the dove. He requested the King to hand over the dove. But the king did not want to give up the dove. The hunter then told the King that the meat of the dove was his only food for that day. However, the King being compassionate wanted to save the life of the dove. He was also desirous of dissuading the hunter from his policy of hunting animals… [content warning if you read on: kindness but also a disturbing action towards oneself on behalf of a human]
Humans helping animals and being rewarded for it is a whole motif in folklore, I think (apparently e.g. this index has it as “grateful animals”), from a bunch of different cultures/societies. E.g. of a link listing some examples.
Robert Burns’ “To a mouse on turning up her nest with a plough”:
“I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,