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Biodiversity Conservation And Human Society


Felipe Moreli Fantacini

10 November 2014

The tug of war between humans and carnivores


Human-carnivore conflicts (HCC) brings

losses for both sides and it is a main
issue for conservation worldwide.
This POSTnote summarises some
constraints and strategies to help
implement action plans to mitigate or
solve the conflicts.

The Carnivore order comprises 280 species
which occupies the main ecosystems of the
world. They are mainly meat-eating or
omnivorous and thus predisposed to getting
involved in HCC (Box 1), due to mainly
depredation of husbandries, but also
competition for game species and attacks on
humans (Box 3) [1-3]. The response is
normally killing or harming carnivores as
retaliation or preventive measures [2, 4].
Kansky et al. [5] showed in a meta-analysis
that the probability of experiencing the
damages caused by carnivores is significantly
lower than by other wildlife, however the
intolerance is the highest. Furthermore the
severity of the conflict increases with the

HCC happen mainly due to depredation

on livestock, leading to retaliation or
preventive killing of carnivores.
Several factors can influence the
gravity of the conflicts, but in ultimate
analysis the social factors drive the
responses to the conflict.
Different strategies aim to mitigate or
solve the conflicts, showing different
levels of effectiveness.
The absence of evidences about the
strategies effectiveness is a key
limitation to solving conflicts.
To increase the probability of success
of an action plan, it should embrace
conservation of carnivores and
livelihood of the communities involved
and consider the holistic view of the
conflict and the implementation of
participatory management.
species size [4], which drives particular
attention to large carnivores. Among the 31
biggest species (>15kg), 80% have
experienced population decline and 60% are
endangered [1, 6], requiring urgent actions for
their conservation [1, 5].
Although the livestock depredation is
globally low (0.02-2.6%) [3], it can strongly
impact poor communities [7]. A survey of 130
pastoralist in Tanzania, reported depredation
losses of 4.5%, corresponding to an annual
financial loss of 19% [8]. Conversely, in big

International Master in Applied Ecology, UEA, Norwich

POSTnote 10 November 2014 The tug of war between humans and carnivores

ranches in Brazil, the loss is less than 1% of

the livestock holdings [9]. These disparities
trigger different responses. Kansky et al. [5]
also analysed attitudes of people towards
conflicting wildlife, showing that while 80%
of urban residents and 50% of commercial
farmers tend to have positive attitudes, 74%
of the communal subsistence farmers tend
to have negative attitudes toward conflicting
Therefore the need to conserve
carnivores cannot supersede the livelihood
of communities facing these conflicts. The
situation urges for effective management, in
order to conciliate human livelihood and
politicians and decision makers around the

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Box 2. Why do Human-Wildlife Conflicts

The genesis, scale and severity of the conflicts
depend on risk factors summarized in figure 1.
Social factors play a crucial role. In some cases
only reducing the damage caused by predator
will not lead to a long term resolution of the
conflict [10]. Responses to the conflict depends
on how the people perceive the cost, varying
from tolerant to hyper-awareness with
disproportionate responses [10]. For instance, in
Nepal monks accept depredation by snow
leopard, perceived as punishment from gods
[12], while in Namibia 6700 cheetahs were killed
in the 1980s to protect livestock, though they
rarely attack cattle [13].

Box 1. Definition of human-wildlife conflicts

Human-wildlife conflicts involve several species
and forms of interactions, such as elephants
destroying crops in Africa or jaguars attacking
cattle in Latin America [3, 10, 11]. It is defined by
Inskip and Zimmermann [4] as the situation that
arises when behaviour of non-pest, wild animal
poses a direct and recurring threat to livelihood
or safety of a person or a community and, in
response, persecution of the species ensues.

Management strategies to mitigate

A full understanding of the factors behind
the conflict is crucial to establish action to
deal with HCC (Box 2). With a holistic
overview it is possible to find suitable
management strategies, increasing the
. Several strategies are
available, and are then presented with a
review of their success.

Figure 1. Conceptual framework of factors that can

affect HCC [3, 4, 10, 14], adapted from Dickman [10] .

POSTnote 10 November 2014 The tug of war between humans and carnivores

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Indianaturewatch, Photographer: Trayambak Ojha

Lethal strategies
Lethal control is an old and widespread
strategy [15]. Eradication programs financed
by governments used to be common and led
to the local extinction of some carnivores
(e.g. bears and wolves in western USA [16]),
and have become largely discouraged [4, 17].
Regulated harvest and selective removal are
still commonly employed. Treves [2] reviewed
the effectiveness of hunting to archive stable
population, reduce conflicts and enhance
conservation by trophy hunting and tourism.
He concluded that only for population
control there are evidences of success, and
yet some stochasticities can result in
population declines. For reduce conflicts or
enhance conservation, the lack of data
makes effectiveness unsure [11, 16, 17]. A study
in South Africa showed that lethal control is
less effective, and more costly, to reduce
conflicts than non-lethal in a long-term use
[11]. Trophy hunting have some local
examples of success to mitigate conflicts in
Namibia [18].
Non-lethal strategies

Box 3. Attacks on humans

The most severe HCC involves attacks on
humans. Le and Rskaft [19] reviewed the cases
in the last century, finding that there were over
12,000 registered deaths related with tigers,
another 2427 related with other big felids,
bears or wolves, and 7 with hyenas or coyotes.
After 1950, 90% of all the cases were in Africa
and Asia.
Generally, attacks on humans occurred because
of high encounter rates in some areas, rabies,
inefficiency in removing the problem animal or
habituation of the predator with human
presence. However the few data with weak
reliability do not allow for further analyses. The
strategies commonly used to reduce the attacks
were based on avoiding or decreasing the
probability of an encounter or, less effectively,
the use of behavioural techniques or deterrents
to decrease the probability of an attack [19].

Non-lethal strategies are largely used] and

examples are presented in table 1 [4, 10,20]
and a summary considering their frequency
and effectiveness reviewed for felids [4] and
bears [14] is presented in figure 2. Even
focused on felids and bears, the strategies
can be extrapolated to other carnivores
since different species are normally involved
under the same conflict [3, 14].
effectiveness reviewed for felids [4] and bears

POSTnote 10 November 2014 The tug of war between humans and carnivores

Some extra considerations include:

Education is normally suggested as an
important strategy. However there is an
immense lack of evidence or it is badly
overdue, calling attention to the need for
their evaluation [15].
Although Livestock guarding have several
evidences of success, is can have different
results depending the guardian. Smith et
al. [21] reviewed the effectiveness of dog,
llamas, donkeys and cattle against
different predators and presented which
animal is better in each case.
A specific review about translocation was
made by Linnell et al. [22] concerning
several carnivores and also concluded
that it is generally unsuccessful, because
of carnivores ability to return to the
previous site, the leakage of the conflicts
into the new area and also because the
survival rates of the translocated animals
are normally low.
Among deterrents, only scarecrows were
evaluated for felids and it increased the
risk of attacks [4]. Smith et al. [23] reviewed
more deterrents and found that chemical
repellents are generally ineffective for
coyotes, and effective against wolves and
momentarily effective against bear and
visual devices generally have success only
in the beginning.
Aversive conditioning was also reviewed
[23]. Lithium chloride was tested for many
carnivores under field and laboratory
circumstances, however its effectiveness
are still unclear.
Zoning was little assessed, but there are
some evidences of success with wolves,
bears and other few species [24, 25].
Resettlement was used in India to
remove people from areas with lions and

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Table 1. Examples of some methods for each strategy

aiming mitigate or solve conflicts between carnivores
and humans


Financial methods
(Box 4)

Compensation; ecotourism; trophy


Education program

Community outreach; education



Electric fencing; fencing preventing

cattle to enter in the forest; wire
mesh; wooden pole or nylon netting;
barriers around villages.

Livestock husbandry

Improved productivity and protection

with synchronization of calving

Livestock guarding

Guarding by people, dog or other



Lights and sounds; pyrotechniques;

face mask; chemical repellents;
projectile repellents, scarecrows.

Aversive conditioning

Electrified stuffed animals; nauseating

substances (lithium chloride) in recent
killed livestock.


Remove the animal from the conflict


Lethal control

Regulated harvest or selective removal


Separate livestock grazing areas from

carnivores habitats


Livestock free grazing areas,


Attack verification

Tiger response unit

tigers, and in this case reduced the

conflict [15].
The list of strategies and methods presented
are not exhaustive, however it allows an
initial understanding about the common
strategies and their strengths, helping
planning management projects.

POSTnote 10 November 2014 The tug of war between humans and carnivores

Box 4. Financial instruments

Revenue-sharing values the predators (trophy

hunting and tourism) to overpass the cost of
conflicts, and can be effective. However
normally it is concentrated by elites and doesnt
reach the far areas with HCC. Thus they
normally fail to assure carnivore conservation.

Financial methods are commonly used to

mitigate HCC (fig. 2). Dickman et al. [7] reviewed
some methods as presented below.
PEC - Payment to encourage coexistence is
based in the idea that carnivores have a high
global value, which brings external founding to
pay for HCC, mostly livestock depredation. The
two main kinds of PECs are:
Compensation with direct compensation of
the individual affected to hopefully reduce
retaliatory killing.
Insurance schemes which are normally
driven by communities, and requires less
external funding. However it experiences
poor adhesion and generally preventive
killing of carnivores continues.
PECs have mixed evidence of success around
the world; being unlikely to be effective if cover
a small part of the species range or if
implemented in high populated areas.
Furthermore it can face corruption or weak
institutional mechanism; leakage (conflict
translocated); and dependence of external

Number of attempts



Conservation payments work with conservation

targets (e.g. increase population of a carnivore)
and gives direct incentives for it. There are
increasing evidences that it can alleviate
poverty and attain conservation. For example, in
Mexico, ranchers received 50-300USD if a
camera trap recorded a big felid.
Some weaknesses of this method are the
dependence of external factors (e.g. population
decline because of draught or diseases, can
reduce payment when the species needs more
protection) and the need of defined land rights
or structured communities.
All kinds of payments have strengths and can fit
better under certain situations. Some main
points to be considered are: ways to reduce
direct cost of HCC; less dependence to external
funding; help alleviate poverty, and monitoring
the plan effectiveness.
Attemps for bears[14]
Evaluated attempt for felids [4]





+_ Generally successful

Generally unsuccessful

certain conditions
? Successful varies

Attemps for felids [4]

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_ _




Lethal control









Figure 2. Number of times that strategies attempts to mitigate conflicts with bears or felids was cited in the
reviewed literature. Inskip and Zimmermann [4] reviewed 349 literature sources and found 74 with detail of
implemented mitigation (total of attempts: 107; 74 non evaluated [dark green], 33 evaluated [light green] and
classified according their success. Note that one strategy can have different classes because of different
methods evaluated). Can et al. [14] reviewed 172 papers considering conflicts with bears and 31 among them
mentioned tools to mitigate conflicts (total of 55 attempts [grey])

POSTnote 10 November 2014 The tug of war between humans and carnivores

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The main constraint to solve HCC: How to mitigate or solve HCC

The absence of evidences
The number of literature reporting HCC had
an exponential increase in the last decades
[4, 10], and several programs aiming mitigate
HCC have being established. Nevertheless
the effectiveness of this program is poorly
investigated. The information available is
normally biased to few species and few
articles report the economic loss related to
HCC. Also generally livestock depredation
are measured in several ways not
comparable [4]. Throughout this text it was
commonly reported the lack of evidences or
support in different contexts. The need of
evidences are extremely necessary for
conservation as it should be the base for
decision making to guide strategies [26].
Therefore one of the main actions to help
solving and mitigating HCC is investments to
evaluate the management plans already
implemented and the development of
techniques to measure HCC in order to make
them comparable.

There is no ideal strategy to solve HCC but

some elements should be taken in account
when implementing a plan. The acceptance
of an action plan, when imposed, tends to
be refused by the local population and thus
fail [20]. Therefore participatory planning of
the strategies, involving several sectors of
the society is a must [10, 20]. After that, the
other elements to be consider are:
Factors that drives the conflict, giving
special attention to social factors, the
perception of the conflict and how it can
influence the action;
Several strategies should be used
Choosing strategies that have proved
effectiveness in a global scale, and, if
available in a local scale;
techniques by the local community, and
also the long term feasibility and costbenefits of them;
The action plan should be thought of in a
holistic way covering carnivore protection

POSTnote 10 November 2014 The tug of war between humans and carnivores

and human livelihood improvement;

Monitored the outcomes of the plan (Are
the carnivores population stable or
increasing? Are the
accepting carnivores? Were the conflicts
minimized or eliminated? Were the
livelihood of the communities improved?)
Considering these elements, there is a high
chance to achieve long lasting resolution of
conflicts between humans and carnivores
benefiting both sides.


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