Conflict with humans is one of the greatest threats to key species, report warns

Support us and go ad-free

Conflict between people and wild animals is one of the main threats to the survival of some of the world’s most iconic species, a report has warned.

The report comes from the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) and nature charity WWF. It’s calling for efforts helping humans and wildlife coexist to be included in plans to implement UN sustainable development goals.

The study said human-wildlife conflict is a development and humanitarian issue, as well as a conservation concern. People are at risk of losing their lives, livestock and incomes due to wild species such as lions or elephants.

Polar bear mother and cub scavenging, Cape Tobin, Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland
Climate change and habitat loss are increasing interactions between people and wild animals such as polar bears (Charlotte Margaret Moshoj/WWF-DK/PA)

It also says measures supporting human-wildlife coexistence should be at the heart of the new international framework to help nature.  World leaders will agree the framework in October 2021, at a global meeting in Kunming, China.
The struggle for space

The study involved 155 experts from 40 organisations in 27 countries. It warns that humans and wildlife live together on more than half the Earth’s surface.

There is a rising demand for space, made worse by climate change and loss of natural habitats. This means interactions between people and wild animals are on the increase, the report said.

In some cases, people kill animals in self-defence, or as pre-emptive or retaliatory killings. In fact, conflict-related killing affects more than 75% of the world’s wild cats, as well as species like polar bears and elephants.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

The report highlights how 121 people were killed by elephants in Sri Lanka in 2019, while 405 wild elephants also died as a result of human-elephant conflict. Increasing deforestation means the animals more frequently encounter people when moving from one area of forest to another.

Enclosure built using recycled plastic poles to protect livestock (Mara Predator Conservation Programme/PA)
An enclosure built using recycled plastic poles to protect livestock (Mara Predator Conservation Programme/PA)

Loss of income in poor communities

In Tanzania, an average of 60 people and 150 lions die each year as a result of human-lion conflict. This often happens at night when livestock are in traditional enclosures or free-ranging.

The risk of death isn’t the only problem. Communities’ incomes are taking a hit from loss of livestock, competition with wild animals over natural resources, and damage to their land and crops. This sometimes occurs on top of other devastating problems such as war or drought.

But the report also highlights how effective management can reduce human-wildlife conflict.

WWF said it was working on solutions to help people and wildlife live side by side. One such project is in the Mara in Kenya, where 46 predator-proof enclosures have been built to protect 4,600 cattle.

Coexistence is “possible and attainable”

Paul De Ornellas, chief wildlife adviser at WWF, said:

People around the world benefit from wildlife populations flourishing as key parts of healthy ecosystems that provide vital services on which we rely, such as food, and support livelihoods.

But too often those living closest to wildlife, who are often among the most marginalised and vulnerable communities on our planet, bear all the risks and see few of the benefits.

As climate change and habitat loss drive people and wildlife ever closer together, world leaders attending the Kunming biodiversity conference in October must put the effective management of human-wildlife coexistence at the centre of plans to halt the destruction of nature.

Susan Gardner, director of Unep’s ecosystems division, said:

This report is a clarion call to elevate the problem of human-wildlife conflict and give it the attention it deserves in national and international processes.

It is a call for the adoption of approaches that identify and address the deeper, underlying causes of conflict while developing systemic solutions with affected communities as active and equal participants in the process.

As demonstrated in many of the case studies in this report, coexistence is both possible and attainable.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us