Wild Solutions: Overcoming Human-Wildlife Conflict Issues

CTEC 6th Annual Symposium

Keynote Speakers

Francine Madden, MS, MPA

Executive Director, Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration (HWCC), Bethesda, MD

Human-Wildlife Conflict: Resolution through Collaboration and Innovation

Human-wildlife conflict is a serious obstacle to conservation world-wide and will become increasingly prevalent as human populations increase, development expands, the global climate changes, and human and environmental factors put people and wildlife in greater direct competition for a shrinking resource base. Unaddressed, human-wildlife conflict results in losses for both wildlife conservation and management and human security and welfare.

Moreover, human-wildlife conflict is often less a conflict between humans and wildlife, and more a conflict between humans about wildlife. This means that in order to be more successful, conservation professionals need to become more proficient at analyzing and addressing conflict on every level. Further, many wildlife issues at the center of conversation conflicts often serve as symbols for other conflicts that do not involve conservation directly, like struggles for group recognition, identity, and status.

Consequently, addressing human-wildlife conflict requires greater interaction not only among conservation organizations and other wildlife agencies, but also with social and economic development organizations, land use planners, agribusiness, and other key decision makers. Successfully addressing human-wildlife conflict also requires our tapping into disciplines and skills not traditionally associated with wildlife conservation and management, like those found in the identity-based conflict resolution field. Further, we realize that neutrality is a key pillar of success in our ability to bring together diverse and sometimes hostile stakeholders in our efforts to address conservation and wildlife management conflicts. Finally, while academic, research and conservation practice have made some efforts toward integrating collaboration in their projects, we have realized that cross-sectoral, inter-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder collaboration is a cornerstone and key component of success both in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of our work, as well as in reducing the current duplication of efforts.

The Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration (HWCC) is addressing the practical, urgent needs in human-wildlife conflict, on both the local and global scale, through a global partnership that supports greater collaboration and innovation in our efforts to address all dimensions of human-wildlife conflict. This presentation will outline some of the major challenges and lessons learned and share best practices for addressing human-wildlife conflict, regardless of species, region or culture.


Philip Nyhus, PhD

Environmental Studies Department, Colby College, Waterville, ME

Unlocking the human-wildlife conflict puzzle: What to do when big things eat us

People have always struggled to coexist with large and dangerous animals. The challenge of balancing the goals of human development and wildlife conservation are no more extreme than when people and large animals meet face-to-face. I use the tiger (Panthera tigris) as a case study to illustrate changing trends in the frequency of conflict, responses to conflict, and the impact of conflict on wildlife conservation. An estimated 370,000 people may have been killed by tigers over the past 200 years. Today tiger attacks are low probability but high profile events, and with more tigers in captivity than in the wild, injury and death from captive tigers is a surprising new form of “human-wildlife conflict.” The evolution of our understanding of human-tiger conflict provides interesting insight into strategies and debates over how to overcome conflict between people and other large and dangerous animals.


Additional Presenters

Richard Estes, PhD

World Conservation Union’s Antelope Specialists’ Group

How an iconic animal is reawakening a country’s conservation concerns: the case of the giant sable antelope

In the aftermath of the civil war that ended in 2002, the giant sable (Hippotragus niger variani) has been reduced to at most the low hundreds and is critically endangered in the two reserves which encompass its known range. Pedro Vaz Pinto (who spoke at Antioch last February) has single-handedly recruited local villagers to monitor and protect the one surviving small herd in the northern reserve (Cangandala NP). Because of hybridization with the related roan antelope (H. equinus), there are 6 or 7 hybrid offspring and at most a few pure sable offpspring. An attempt to capture the remaining purebred sable and confine them in a 2X2 km enclosure is going to be undertaken at the end of July, in which I’m taking part. A critical part of the operation is to locate and capture a giant sable bull in the main Luando Reserve and airlift it by helicopter to Cangandala. I will report on this operation against the background of efforts to persuade the government to support our efforts to conserve this Angolan icon.


Sharon Matola

Director, The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center

Environmental Human-Wildlife Conflict in Belize, Central America and a Positive Address

The Jaguar, Panthera onca, is the premier icon of the tropical forests of Central and South America. Their range once extended fully from the southwestern United States, far into northern Argentina. Today, however, less than 50% of suitable habitat remains for these great cats. In Belize, however, Jaguars still have a good chance to be conserved for the future, if sound conservation management strategies are put into action now.

According to Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, the CEO of Panthera, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on this big cat, there is still time to save them before they reach the brink of extinction. Belize is considered to be one of the last strongholds for the Jaguar in northern Central America. There still remains a large amount of relatively intact forest, with over 45% of the country still under some type of forest cover, and approximately 40% of lands currently under some status of protection. Belize boasts the only protected area in the world specifically set aside for the preservation of the Jaguar: the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary (CBWS) which encompasses over 100,000 acres of tropical forest, and connects with other major protected forested areas.

Also, in Central Belize, a large expanse of tropical forests remains, and this has been deemed a “Jaguar Corridor’ by researchers, both foreign and Belizean.

However, there is a Human/Wildlife conflict involving Jaguars which is a chronic problem in Belize. As habitat alteration and development continues, and population increases, incidences of “problem Jaguars”, cats preying upon livestock or domestic animals, also increases. According to the Forest Department (FD) at least 30 problem Jaguars are reported annually. Addressing this issue has been difficult. Relocation of “problem Jaguars” has shown to be unsuccessful. Subsequently, the Government of Belize (GOB) had given approval for the killing of “problem Jaguars”, as a means to keep the situation under some type of control.

The Belize Zoo (TBZ) concerned with the growing issue of “problem Jaguars”, and seeking a more positive alternative to this environmental conflict, approached the GOB in 2003 with a novel idea. A “Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation” program was proposed. TBZ would take these animals, and, through behaviour modification, change their demeanor and aggressive nature. Due to the fact that there exists a need for fresh genetic input into the captive Jaguar population in North American Zoological institutions, the intent was to re-shape the behaviour of these wild-caught cats, and make them available for captive-breeding purposes. This would see that their valuable genetic input would provide a healthier profile within the captive population.
Approval for this novel conservation scheme was obtained by GOB, the American Zoological Association (AZA) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The program has evolved in a productive and imperative manner. While two “problem Jaguars” were sent to approved zoological facilities, one to the Philadelphia Zoo, and another to the Milwaukee Zoo, the other seven “problem Jaguars” remain at TBZ for a different purpose: They are now used as in-situ research subjects, for field researchers and other academic research investigations. They empower these important activities, because their origins are known, and the baseline data derived from various studies provides an important template for research.

Due to the program’s success, TBZ has strengthened efforts to bring about a greater awareness in Belize, about the status of the Jaguar, and the human/wildlife conflict involving these big cats. Increased education efforts have been focused upon the maintenance of tropical forest corridors for the long-term sustaining of the remaining Jaguar populations. Information has been made available for ranchers and village members about better live-stock management, which is aimed at reducing the predator/prey conflict. A dynamic program was initiated at TBZ, “Jaguar Encounter” which safely allows visiting schoolchildren, and other zoo guests, to get “up close and personal” with a Jaguar who was born at TBZ, and trained to be an “ambassador” on behalf of his species.

The above-mentioned strategies are part of a necessary “toolbox of conservation strategies”, which will work to see that the future in the wild, for Jaguars in this part of the species’ geographical range, is positioned on a more positive level.

TBZ, working with Panthera and with GOB, also sees the need for the strengthening of the country’s Wildlife Protection Act, enforcement of existing hunting regulations, and the urgent need to reduce the selling of bushmeat in local restaurants, which, oftentimes, is to satisfy the curiosities of tourists. TBZ hopes to also introduce a new mandate which would involve an illegal component to the selling or wearing artifacts of Jaguars, i.e. teeth and claws.


Ronald Abrams, PhD

CEP, Ecological Consultant, Dru Associates Inc.

Integrating Top-down with Bottom-up Conservation Policy in Africa.

Developed nations intervened in conservation policy across in Africa during the 20th Century to address perceived needs to protect species and biodiversity. By the 21st Century, conservationists in Africa have revised that perception and begun the process of identifying conservation priorities from an African perspective, and in consideration of Africans’ priorities. While foreign conservation interveners struggled to identify mechanisms to which local people would respond, African conservationists are now demonstrating how to integrate the continent’s unique socio-economic circumstances into efforts to protect biodiversity. In Africa, effective conservation policy must include the generation of wealth, reduction of disease and hunger and support of traditional land use practices.

I believe this paper and the work underlying it reflect the cutting edge of conservation biology in developing nations, from which we in the ‘northern hemisphere’ can learn much about living with nature.


Jason Estes, Antioch University New England

A spatial approach to understanding current and future human-elephant conflicts in the Lower Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysia

In 2003, the once thought feral Bornean elephants were found to be genetically distinct from other Asian elephants and are now considered the most endangered member of the Proboscidea order. Of the 1000 elephants thought to exist in all of Borneo, about 200 individuals live in the Lower Kinabatangan floodplain of Sabah, Malaysia, making it a priority population. Over the past 40 years, 40 percent of Sabah’s forest cover has been lost to plantations and human settlement. The rapid agricultural expansion of oil palm and other crops has transformed and fragmented the Lower Kinabatangan, squeezing the remaining elephants into smaller forest fragments and threatening their long-term survival. Frequent elephant crop raiding has prompted plantation owners and villagers to erect electric fences and other barriers to protect their livelihoods, which in turn reduces landscape permeability for elephants, blocking and redirecting their pathways. This study demonstrates current landscape permeability in the Lower Kinabatangan for elephants by conducting least-cost (LC) analysis using the software Corridor Design. Existing and created GIS layers such as land cover, barriers, swamps, and level of forest protection were used to incorporate important landscape features into the model. A linkage design was created and compared to observed elephant movement data gathered from three GPS collared elephants and to locations of human-elephant conflict. Sensitivity analysis and observed elephant movement were used to assess the robustness of the identified linkage. Analysis also included identification of bottlenecks and comparison of contiguous forest and available forested land during dry times and times of heavy flooding. The Sabah Wildlife Department and their partners will use this information to inform their upcoming Kinabatangan Elephant Management Plan and to plan land-use and fencing in ways that reduce human-elephant conflict.


Anna Estes, PhD Candidate

University of Virginia

Human-Elephant Conflict in the Serengeti Ecosystem, Tanzania
Human-elephant conflict (HEC) is arising as one of the greatest wildlife management and conservation challenges facing sub-Saharan Africa. The Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania offers a case study of this kind of conflict, and its ramifications for protected area management, that is broadly representative of the conflict across the continent. In Serengeti, elephant populations have been increasing since the 1989 ban on the trade of ivory and accompanying increases in law enforcement. Along with the increase in elephant numbers has been a range expansion into areas outside the park that constituted pre-poaching elephant range, and are now often densely settled by subsistence agriculturalists. Many areas surrounding parks tend to also experience higher rates of human population growth, often as the result of immigration, creating hard edges along the boundaries. This has led to a vast increase in the incidence of HEC in the form of crop-raiding, occasional human deaths, and elephant deaths by local game officers in response to HEC. HEC also serves to create antagonism among local communities to the conservation objectives of the protected areas they border. On top of this, ivory poaching is increasingly dramatically. Against the backdrop of HEC, a fertile ground for local communities to become more involved in the ivory trade is created.


Michele Goldsmith, Ph.D.

Southern New Hampshire University

Gorilla Tourism: Ape’s Saving Grace?

As wildlife around the globe continues to dwindle, researchers try desperately to identify and solve the many threats they face. A growing human population, the emergence of infectious diseases, hunting and logging are just some of these threats. One solution has been ecotourism; a conservation tool touted to be the gorilla’s