Human-wildlife conflict is when encounters between humans and wildlife lead to negative results, such as loss of property, livelihoods, and even life. Defensive and retaliatory killing may eventually drive these species to extinction. These encounters not only result in suffering for both people and wildlife immediately impacted by the conflict; they can also have a global reach, with groups such as sustainable development agencies and businesses feeling its residual effects. The scope of the issue is significant and truly global, but we are nowhere near being able to address it at the scale needed.
Along with other threats, human-wildlife conflict has driven the decline of once-abundant species and is pushing others to the brink of extinction. But the human-wildlife conflict issue has far-reaching impacts beyond the wildlife and communities immediately affected by it. With human-wildlife conflict centered around the interaction between wildlife and humans, human-wildlife coexistence is strongly linked and important to sustainable development activities. If not effectively managed, human-wildlife conflict has the potential to negatively affect these activities and conservation much more broadly.
many innovative solutions have been crafted to address a variety of human-wildlife conflicts and avoid lethal control measures. Some solutions are species specific, while others are broadly applicable.
To scare off destructive nocturnal wildlife, farmers increasingly rely on automatic light machines. Half strobe light and half motion sensor, the machines flash beams of light randomly in all directions to mimic a farmer with a flashlight. Wary nocturnal animals have been shown to avoid such light signals, although the effect wears off over time as wildlife becomes habituated to the lights.
To keep elephants at a safe distance from their farms and homes, some African villagers have turned to two unlikely, all-natural solutions: bees and hot peppers. Elephants dislike the chemical capsaicin found in chili peppers, prompting farmers in Tanzania to smother their fences with a mixture of oil and chili peppers. In addition to a spice aversion, elephants are also terrified of bees. This realization has led to the construction of bee fences around farms to keep marauding pachyderms out.
One way to reduce conflicts with wild animals is by guiding their movements in developed areas. Wildlife corridors, areas of preserved native habitat in human dominated regions, provide wildlife with a safe pathway as they travel between larger areas of intact habitat. By placing corridors away from potential conflict hotspots, such as farms or ranches, animals can be steered out of harms way and instances of human-wildlife conflict can be proactively avoided.
Using GPS tracking collars and GIS mapping software, researchers can identify hot spots where human-wildlife conflict is likely to occur. These hotspots often coincide with developed regions at the edge of national parks, but the data from tracked animals can reveal individual movement patterns that may be unexpected. Identifying conflict hot spots helps to pinpoint ranger manpower and funding to proactively address the issue of human-wildlife conflict.