Human/Wildlife Conflict - A deadly game

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

The term conflict is considered as “a state of opposition or hostilities”, “a fight or a struggle” and “a clashing of opposed principles”. These definitions therefore suggest an action between two or more opposes.

Humans encroaching on animals space or animals invading humans space???

Depredation of livestock is a primary cause of human– wildlife conflict. It incurs high costs for farmers and brings both retaliatory and preventative killing of predators, which may hinder their survival locally or globally. Farmers in the Serengeti have reported that the cost of depredation amounts to 19% of their annual cash income, and in Bhutan attacks on livestock by predators cost farmers over two-thirds of their annual cash income, on average. In the USA the yearly cost of depredation to the livestock industry is USD 40 million. Even higher losses are reported in South Africa, where a survey in 2010 estimated that the yearly cost of depredation to the livestock industry is USD 171 million, although a 2007 census estimated the cost to be USD 22 million. The disparity between these two estimates raises uncertainty as to their accuracy but both reveal a perception that losses to predators are large. Ideally tools for lowering depredation should help both farmers and wildlife conservationists. Traditionally farmers have tried to prevent depredation, or retaliate, by killing predators, often with decreased effects on predator populations. In South Africa, supported by the government, farmers have utilized lethal control of predators, using tools such as gin-traps (leg-hold traps), gun-traps, poison and hunting, with and without hounds, to get rid of carnivores and other problem animals.

Even with these measures depredation is still a problem in the livestock farming sector, with indications that losses are growing. Lethal control is often considered the cheapest and best method of reducing depredation but it is not without problems: it may miss problem individuals. It is commonly unselective and there is little evidence of cost-effective reduction of livestock losses, as predators learn to avoid control efforts. Strategies such as leg-hold traps, snaring and poisoning are very indiscriminate and often kill non-target animals; in South Africa, this includes threatened species like the Cape vultures (Gyps coprotheres). Outcomes of removing territorial predator species can include an increase of replacement individuals, potentially increasing the local predator population and the risk of depredation even further.

The short comings of lethal control strategies have turned attention on possible non-lethal interventions. Possible nonlethal routes include corralling livestock during periods of susceptibility, utilising predator-proof fencing around small vulnerable areas, using shepherds, installing fladry, translocating species, odour, chemical, visual or acoustic repellents. Guardian animals, particularly livestock guardian dogs, are another popular strategy and have been found to decrease depredation by 10–100% on ranches in the USA. They have also proved useful in southern Africa: in Namibia, 73% of farmers who used guardian dogs reported a high decline in livestock depredation.

Other guardian species that behave aggressively towards stock-predators are donkeys (Equus africanus asinus), alpacas (Lama pacos) and llamas (Lama glama). These nonlethal efforts may be more beneficial with conservation objectives however, some methods can have negative effects: from the early 1900s to the 1960s most farms in South Africa were fenced to inhibit depredation, however fencing large areas may limit the movement of wildlife. Livestock guardian dogs may attack wildlife if not properly trained and managed. Nonlethal mitigation techniques are sometimes considered more expensive and less long-lasting than lethal predator control.

The new security guard in town.

A more focused example on wildlife conflict can be seen in Kenya. Large predators in Africa have decreased in recent years, mainly due to human impacts. African lion (Panthera leo)populations have declined by 70% from an estimated 100 000 in the 1960s and suffered an 83% decrease in land availability. The quickest declines have occurred where there is a large amount of pastoralism or agriculture and little financial value to be acquired from wildlife. Sustaining lion populations in pastoralist regions is difficult because lions cause large economic damage through livestock depredation, injure or kill people and are often killed in retaliation, commonly through spearing or poison. Productive lion conservation outside of protected areas is concentrated around limiting or managing this conflict. A key strategy to protecting lions is the formation and effective management of conservation areas. However, increased human population growth has led to an increase in human activities in areas bordering many reserves, thereby reducing their efficacy for conservation. Providing cultural and economic motivation for coexisting with lions is critical to their conservation in human-dominated areas. Such motives may be best acquired through community-based conservancies which include local people in tourism and wildlife management. However, these areas support pastoralism, and so offer potential for conflict between wildlife and humans. Conflict mitigation strategies such as compensation schemes put in place, so if a lion attacks a domestic animal the farmer will be compensated in full ,lion monitors have been employed by which they track the lions movements and warn farmers when the lions are in the area.

Attitudes towards predators, particularly farmers have always been negative.

Local perceptions of the impact that carnivores have on people’s lives and livelihood resources are critical drivers of conflicts. These perceptions are made by many factors including the physical and behavioural characteristics of an animal along with knowledge and understanding of an animal. They are also shaped by beliefs and attitudes towards wildlife that have deep social and cultural roots.

In the Masi Mara culture, in order to become a man you need to kill a lion.

Opposition to animal control often starts from changing societal attitudes toward animals and from concerns that commonly used control methods are inhumane, ineffective, or not linked to scientific evidence. Along with this, many areas have limited regulatory oversight of wildlife control strategies, including those used by the public and by commercial pest control operators. Given this situation, it is now largely acknowledgment for ethical and evidence-based strategies to wildlife control. For over many years, governments, academics, and animal protection organizations have put forward approaches to maintain ethical decision making in wildlife control. However, the different approaches, plus a lack of standards in many areas, show a clear need for broadly based guidance that includes international perspectives.

Jaws the movie, didn't have any positive effect on these awesome creatures.

White sharks are apex predators that are subject to lethal control as a consequence of infrequent, fatal attacks on people. In the period from 1839 - 2010 there have been a total of 346 unprovoked white shark attacks (102 fatalities) recorded globally (an average of less than two attacks per year). Unprovoked attacks relate to those in which people are bitten due to crossover with sharks in their natural environment, with no initial provocation of the shark, whereas provoked attacks are those in which people try to touch or handle sharks (such as during scuba diving or hook removal from fishing) and are subsequently bitten. The low-probability, high consequence nature of unprovoked shark attacks skew humans risk perception, and these occurrences have been shown to lead to overreaction by the public and policy makers. A number of locations with sustained high levels of shark attacks have led to lethal control strategies to lower the risk of people-shark conflict and bring back public confidence in beach safety. These strategies are varied, and range from short-term shark hunts, to long-term control methods, including the use of permanently or semi-permanently deployed fishing gear such as large-mesh gill nets and baited drum lines. There is a large debate as to the effectiveness of lethal control measures and a number of studies have shown that short-term, concentrated hunts are mainly ineffective at limiting the risk of shark bites from large, wide ranging species such as white sharks. However, long-term shark control programs, such as those currently implemented at a number of popular beaches in Queensland and New South Wales in Australia, and in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, have been shown to successfully decrease the amount of shark occurrences in these areas. Unfortunately, these methods are costly in terms of their environmental impacts. Not only do shark nets and drum lines reduce the numbers of a protected apex predator, nets in particular are also highly unselective, resulting in the by-catch of many other species such as cetaceans, rays, turtles and a number of harmless shark species.

Know what you are getting into before jumping right in! After all it is their home you are entering.

Alternative, non-lethal strategies that can be put in place on a long-term basis are therefore needed to mitigate conflict between water users and sharks. In False Bay, South Africa, a small community initiative, Shark Spotters, has been put in place as an alternative to lethal methods. The location of mountains to a number of popular beaches provides look out points from which trained shark spotters can alert the public to the presence of white sharks in, or close to, the surf zone using a combination of auditory (a siren) and visual (flags) warnings . Shark Spotters aims to balance the needs of recreational water users in Cape Town with the conservation of white sharks by actively decreasing crossover between humans and sharks in the inshore zone and hence limiting potential conflict. However, the success of the program relies mainly upon the cooperation and compliance of water users with warnings issued by spotters in the occurrence of a shark sighting.


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