Conflict and conservation

Dr Babu Bhattarai, School of Health

Supervisors,  Associate Professor Wendy Wright, Dr Simon Cook and Dr Damian Morgan.

This study used a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the implications of human wildlife conflict (HWC) for people living adjacent to two key tiger reserves in Nepal. The study also assessed the potential to redistribute financial benefits accruing from predator conservation to those who bear the costs of conservation due to HWC. Data were sourced through interviews with 422 local households and direct observations of 310 conflict events. Interview participants reported losses of livestock (during previous 5 years) and crops (during previous 1 year). Direct observation data collated livestock (5 communities) and crop losses (7 communities) for 12 months. Willingness to pay surveys were conducted with park visitors (N=387) and tourism business owners (N=74).

Results show that tigers are involved in significantly fewer depredation events compared to leopards. This was most obvious in the direct observation data. Leopards killed smaller and medium sized livestock whereas tigers selected both small to medium and large livestock. More depredation events occurred in livestock corrals relative to forest zones or crop fields. Prey species of tigers and leopards (wild boar and chital) were involved more frequently in crop raiding events, and caused more crop damage, compared to megaherbivores such as elephant and rhinoceros. Quantities of crops lost per household were lowest where effective physical barriers were present. Park visitors and tourism business owners indicated willingness to pay for conservation of tigers and for compensation of farmers for their losses. Study findings support several key recommendations to mitigate HWC effects in the study area. These include financial support for local communities to build predator proof livestock corrals and establishment of effective physical barriers at the park borders. A tariff for park visitors and a levy for tourism business owners are also recommended to fund tiger conservation and support financial compensation for farmers affected by HWC.