Posted on 13 May 2008
The WWF report ‘Common Ground’ assesses cases of Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC), focusing on elephants as a flagship of these conflicts. Often the scale of the damage that can be caused by them, and the fact that they can injure or even kill humans, makes them the species that communities most fear.
The WWF report ‘Common Ground’ (PDF - 3.74MB)
assesses cases of Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC), focusing on elephants as a flagship of these conflicts. Often the scale of the damage that can be caused by them, and the fact that they can injure or even kill humans, makes them the species that communities most fear.
Although the dynamics and drivers of HWC can be very different wherever it occurs, there are themes in the studies that can be used to compose a 'Common Ground' or a basic list of solutions available and tested. Here are some of them:
Scale of the problem
Common Ground found the most serious conflict and harm to both human communities and elephants resulted from unplanned and unregulated development. In Namibia, elephant related conflict costs communal farmers around $US 1 million a year, while in some Nepalese communities it can be up to around a quarter of the household incomes of poor farming families.
The most significant consequence of the conflict was loss of human life, but other considerable, costs of human wildlife conflict go largely uncounted – for instance, in Nepal, men in elephant-ravaged villages faced difficulties in marrying as women as scared to move to villages where elephants are a problem. In some areas, retaliatory killing of elephants was a major threat to already vulnerable elephant populations.
Effective land use planning can reduce HWC
In Nepal, the study compared communities with high levels of wild elephant damage with an area where the conflict costs were at half those levels, and found that the less damaged area had more forest cover in edge areas and less fragmented forests overall. Further analysis revealed that the level of habitat fragmentation was actually more influential in determining the amount of crop loss than the amount of forest coverage itself - although there are many other factors which play a part.
In Namibia levels of crop damage were closely related to the distance of farms from wildlife areas, with farms immediately adjacent to unfenced wildlife habitat being “a drain on the national economy”. Human wildlife conflict in just one region of Namibia was estimated as causing annual losses of US$700,000 to the national economy. Therefore effective structures and planning process that ensure new agricultural developments are places as far away from wildlife habitat as possible will reduce HWC and ensure greater profitability for the agricultural enterprise.
Community Based Natural Resource Management
The report also found that an effective way to manage HWC was to give rights over wildlife to local communities, thus enabling local communities to benefit from neighbouring wildlife. Economic analysis in Namibia demonstrated that these communities were able to generate more income from wildlife than they suffered from wildlife losses. In Nepal, communities which received benefits from wildlife and wildlife habitat showed a much greater tolerance towards elephants than communities receiving no benefits.
A united effort
In order to be truly effective, prevention of Human Wildlife Conflict has to involve the full scope of society: international organizations, governments, NGOs, communities, consumers and individuals. Drivers of the problem are not just local, but can be regional or even international. In Namibia for example, international agreements between Europe and Africa artificially enhance the economic viability of the livestock sector compared to other land-uses and add to wildlife conflict pressures.
Innovative financial solutions
In many cases, innovative financial solutions are required. These range from compenstation and insurance, to Payments for Environmental Services and the development of ‘Wildlife Friendly Products’. These solutions are available, but need development, backing and support.
Field based solutions
There are a number of practical field based solutions that can limit the damage done both to humans and human property, and to wildlife. These are solutions that aim to prevent wildlife entering crops or villages. But this is something on a case-by-case basis. What people see as solution in one place, they may resist in another. What works in one place, may have the opposite effect somewhere else.