Comparative analysis of human-wildlife conflicts in Asia and Africa

  • The continuous conversion of natural wildlife habitats into agricultural areas, as well as the fragmentation of the last wildlife refuges, is increasing the interface between people and wildlife. When wildlife negatively impacts on people and vice versa, we speak about human-wildlife conflicts (HWCs). This definition includes losses on both sides and takes into consideration the rooting of most of these conflicts between different groups of interest, such as advocates for nature conservation and economic groups. The centres of highest biodiversity are located in developing countries, which are also characterized by poverty. In African and Asian countries, people living in the vicinity of national parks and other conservation areas mostly receive only little support through the government or conservation organisations. Especially for those people who are dependent on agriculture, damage to fields and harvests can have catastrophic consequences. If the species causing damage is protected by national or even international law, the farmer is not allowed to use lethal methods, but has to approach the authority in charge. If this agency, however, cannot offer appropriate support, resentment, anger or even hate develops, and the support for wildlife conservation activities declines. For this reason, HWCs were declared as one of the most important conservation topics today, being particularly relevant for large and threatened species such as the African and Asian elephant, hippopotamus and the greater one-horned rhino, as well as for large predators. Up to today, no general assessment scheme has been recommended for damage caused by protected wildlife species. In my study, HWCs in Asia and Africa are compared, focussing on all herbivorous species identified which damaged crops. For the French NGO Awely, des animaux et des hommes, I developed a detailed assessment scheme suitable for all terrestrial ecosystems, and any type of HWCs and any species (Chapter 2). This HWC assessment scheme was used in four different study areas located in two African countries (South Luangwa/Zambia (SL), Tarangire/Tanzania (TA)) and two Asian countries (Bardia/Nepal (BA) and Manas/India (MA)). This scheme ran for six consecutive years (2009 to 2014) for Zambia, Nepal and India and two years (2010 to 2011) for Tanzania. To carry out the assessments, I trained local HWC officers (Awely Red Caps) to assess HWCs by field observations (measurement of damage, identification of species through signs of presence, landscape attributes etc.) and interviews with aggrieved parties (socio economic data). Results of this assessment are presented in Chapters 2-4. To determine whether elephants prefer or avoid specific crop species, two field experiments were carried out, one in SL and one in BA (Chapter 5 and 6). For this, two test plots were set up and damage by elephants (and other herbivores) were quantified. Within this doctoral thesis, 3306 damage events of 7408 aggrieved parties were analysed. In three out of the four study areas (SL, BA, MA), elephants caused the highest number of damage events compared to all other wildlife species, however, in TA, most fields were damaged by zebra. Furthermore, the greater one-horned rhino, hippopotamus, wild boar, bushpig, deer and antelope, as well as primates, caused damage to fields and harvests. Damage to houses and other property were nearly exclusively caused by elephants. With this doctoral thesis I was able to show that season, crop availability, type and the phenological stage of the crop played an important role for crop damaging behavior of herbivores (Chapter 2). Elephants especially damaged rice, maize and wheat and preferred all crop types in a mature stage of growth. In contrast, rhinos preferred wheat to rice and similar to antelope and deer, they preferred crops at earlier stages of growth, before ripening. Crop damage by wildlife species varied strongly in size; most damages fell below 40% of the total harvest per farmer, but in several cases (3 to 8% depending on the study area), harvests were completely destroyed. Interestingly, during times of low nutritional availability in the natural habitat (dry season), crop damages in all four study areas were significantly less than during other seasons. In all four study areas, crop protection strategies, such as active guarding in the fields, chasing wildlife with noise or fire torches or erecting barriers, were used. In some cases protection strategies were combined. Analysis of data revealed that traditional protection strategies did not reduce the costs of damage (Chapter 3). In some cases, costs of damage, on protected fields were even higher than for unprotected fields. Only in MA did strategic and cohesive guarding significantly reduce crop damage by wildlife species. Besides damage in the fields, elephants also caused damage to properties in the villages. In search for stored staple crops, they damaged houses, grain stores and kitchens. Such damage was analysed in three study areas (SL, BA, MA) (Chapter 4). Although property damage occurred less frequently compared to crop damage in the fields, the mean cost of this damage was found to be double in BA/MA and four times higher in SL, compared to the costs of crop damage in the fields. It is further remarkable that property damage significantly increased towards the dry season, when the harvest was brought into the villages. The findings of this study underpin the assumption that wildlife herbivores, especially elephants, are lured to fields and crops because the highly nutritional food (crop) being readily available. Traditional crop protection is cost and labour intensive and does not reduce the costs of damage. For this reason, crop types, which are thought to be not consumed by elephants were systematically tested on their attractiveness in field experiments in SL and BA (Chapter 5 and 6). In SL, lemon grass, ginger and garlic were proven to be less attractive to African elephants than maize and in BA, basil, turmeric, chamomile, coriander, mint, citronella and lemon grass were found to be less attractive to Asian elephants than rice. The results of this doctoral thesis are relevant for the management of wildlife conservation as they can lead to new approaches to the mitigation of HWCs in African and Asian countries. Finally, specific needs for more scientific research in this field have been identified.
Author:Eva Gross
Place of publication:Frankfurt am Main
Referee:Manfred Niekisch, Thomas Müller
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of Publication (online):2018/04/18
Year of first Publication:2018
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Granting Institution:Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität
Date of final exam:2018/11/04
Release Date:2018/04/26
Tag:HWC database; conservation; elephant; herbivores; human-wildlife conflict
Page Number:xvi, 175
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Sammlung Biologie / Biologische Hochschulschriften (Goethe-Universität)
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht