New tools to predict and prevent human-wildlife conflicts
Although wildlife provide numerous benefits to humans, they also threaten human safety and livelihoods. These threats encourage wildlife poaching, which contributes to global wildlife declines. Unfortunately, the complex causal and dynamic relationships between social and environmental systems that underlie these “human–wildlife conflicts” (HWC) are poorly understood; policies that improve human well-being and advance wildlife conservation are deficient. This project aims to evaluate multifarious fundamental mechanisms underlying HWC, with a focus on large predators. Large predators are disproportionately involved in HWC, and their conservation is complicated by direct competition with people. Our proposed international collaboration includes researchers, wildlife managers, and decision-makers. We will integrate existing long-term empirical data from multiple disciplines and regions differing in four socio-environmental settings in North America, Europe, and Africa. We will use advanced quantitative modeling to predict locations of human-predator conflicts and, based on those models, create risk maps to help target interventions. The proposed project is novel and actionable in several ways; it will:
- Advance methodological knowledge for synthesizing theories from disparate disciplines including wildlife ecology, social psychology, and criminology;
- Represent a first attempt to compare and replicate risk models across regions;
- Provide urgently-needed information for policy interventions that better protect people, their property, and reduce poaching;
- Identify similar underlying ecologies that allow scaling up of interventions to many other regions and species (e.g., elephants, rhinos); and
- Catalyze other cross-regional, and possibly global, initiatives to explicate drivers of human–wildlife conflicts.