Helping people and animals coexist

As development, habitat degradation, and climate change squeeze wildlife into ever-smaller spaces, run-ins with people are increasingly common. Human-wildlife conflict directly impacts animals and conservation goals, as well as businesses and communities. But achieving some level of coexistence isn’t impossible. Governments, community groups, organizations like WWF, and a multitude of stakeholders are finding innovative ways to help people and wild creatures live in harmony.

Illustration of jaguar at fence



In Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, and Costa Rica, jaguars that roam beyond protected areas sometimes prey on livestock in nearby ranches. Retaliatory killing of the cats is common. The organization Panthera works with ranchers to commit to zero wildcat killing while maintaining forested areas and corridors by helping them safeguard cattle. Approaches include installing specially designed electric fences and night enclosures and introducing cattle breeds that can defend themselves. The initiative not only protects jaguars and other big cats such as pumas, but also increases ranch productivity.

Illustration of lion at fence



As top predators, lions help maintain the health of entire ecosystems. When livestock losses to lions were on the rise in Southern Africa’s Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, many big cats were killed in retaliation. To manage the conflict, the Kwando Carnivore Project installed lion-proof corrals, reducing predation and retaliatory killings. The result: more lions, less conflict, and an ecosystem in better balance.

Illustration of elephant and big cats with vegetation



When tigers and people live in proximity, interactions can pose a threat to both people and livestock; retaliatory killings account for nearly half of tiger mortality. To safeguard both cats and cattle, India has included policies to enable management of human-wildlife conflict in its national laws—and is one of few countries to do so. This inclusive approach provides a common framework that allows states to develop site-specific laws to manage human-wildlife conflicts.

Illustration of people in village



To minimize human-tiger conflict in the areas surrounding Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, the Government of Nepal, WWF-Nepal, and partners have been implementing integrated solutions. These have included conducting research into the specific contexts for conflict; developing policies such as ensuring 30% of Chitwan park fees go to the surrounding communities to improve economic stability; installing electric fences and corrals to keep livestock safe from tigers; training rapid response teams that act when conflict happens; developing insurance programs; and monitoring these efforts to ensure their results are being fed back to the government to inform improved management actions. This approach has resulted in a significant reduction of human-tiger conflict over time.

Illustration of elephant and calf crossing field



As Borneo’s habitats shrink, elephants traveling between forest fragments often pass through oil palm plantations, grazing on palm seedlings as they go. WWF-Malaysia worked with one large industrial tree plantation and oil palm company to install fences and create a wildlife corridor through which elephants can move safely between forests, thus avoiding vulnerable plantation areas and significantly reducing crop damage.

Navigating Social Dynamics: It’s Complicated

One of the biggest challenges in managing human-wildlife conflict is that there are complex social dimensions inherent to the process. For example, despite plenty of suitable habitat, wolves are endangered in Norway; when they venture outside a narrow wolf management zone, they’re often culled. The conflict is tense: Conservationists want to protect wolves, but livestock owners realistically fear livestock predation—and some segments of the rural population feel left out of the discussion altogether. Social and political nuances underlie these tensions and must be respectfully worked through if sustainable management of human-wildlife conflict is to be achieved.

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World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

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