08 July 2021
For immediate release
Out of hours: 07500 577620
CONFLICT WITH HUMANS IS ONE OF THE GREATEST THREATS TO WILDLIFE – WWF AND UNEP REPORT
Increasing competition over space and resources puts both people and wildlife in danger
Conflict between people and animals is one of the main threats to the long-term survival of some of the world’s most emblematic species, according to a new report from WWF and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Humans and wildlife live together on more than half of the earth’s surface and a rising demand for space, aggravated by climate change and habitat loss, means interaction is increasing. The report, A future for all - the need for human-wildlife coexistence, looks at the struggles that can arise from people and animals coming into contact – often with devastating effects.
In 2019, 121 people in Sri Lanka were killed by elephants, and 405 wild elephants also died as a result of human-elephant conflict in the country, where increasing deforestation means elephants more frequently encounter people when passing from one patch of forest to another. Annually, an average of 60 people and 150 lions lose their lives in Tanzania due to human-lion conflict, which often occurs at night when livestock is in traditional enclosures or free ranging.
In some cases, conflict can lead to people killing animals in self-defence, or as pre-emptive or retaliatory killings. The study highlights that conflict-related killing affects more than 75% of the world’s wild cats, as well as other species such as polar bears and elephants.
The report, which features contributions from 155 experts from 40 organisations based in 27 countries, finds that human-wildlife conflict is as much a development and humanitarian issue as it is a conservation concern.
As well as the risk of injury and death, local communities may find their incomes affected through loss of livestock, competition over natural resources and damage to land. Sometimes this comes on top of other devastation such as drought or war. In northeast Nigeria in October 2020, a herd of 250 elephants trampled the crops of 8,000 internally displaced people just before the harvest.
Despite these threats, human-wildlife conflict continues to be overlooked by policymakers. WWF is calling for human-wildlife coexistence to be included in the implementation plans for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as well as being placed at the heart of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s new framework.
World leaders will meet to decide the framework in October in Kunming, southwest China, where recently a herd of wandering elephants attracted global attention as the animals raided farms for food and water and passed through urban areas.
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.”
The report recognises that human-wildlife conflict cannot be eradicated, but effective management can reduce it. WWF is working globally on a number of solutions to help people and wildlife live side by side.
One of these projects is in the Mara, Kenya, where night predation of livestock is a major challenge to pastoralists. The Mara Predator Conservation Programme, with support from WWF, has built 46 recycled plastic pole predator proof bomas (enclosures) in four conflict hotspot areas, which protect 4,600 heads of cattle from attack. A survey of the bomas in ten areas earlier this year found that 99.8% had not experienced any night predator attacks.
In the area surrounding Chitwan National Park in Nepal, killing of livestock by tigers has decreased 75% over the past 10 years, while the tiger population has grown from an estimated 38 in 2000 to 92 in 2018. Preventative measures, such as fences and walls, have been put in place and local communities are compensated for livestock loss. Rapid response teams of local people supported by the national park authorities are ready to intervene to help communities and rescue wildlife.
In Arctic regions, the Polar Bear Human Information Management System is helping to track interactions across range states, allowing for standardised information to be shared on encounters and evaluate and identify the most effective tools to manage conflict situations.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Full report available here.
The post-2020 global biodiversity framework is expected to be adopted at the Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which will be held in Kunming, China 11-24 October. World leaders are due to sign a new 10-year commitment to protect biodiversity.
Humans and wildlife co-habit on more than half the surface of the earth (56%), and rising demand for space is triggering increased interaction and competition between them. The remaining area of Earth’s surface is either human dominated (18%) or largely, but not completely, devoid of people (26%). (Source: Locke H., Ellis E.C., Venter O., Schuster R., Ma K., Shen X., et al., 2019, Three global conditions for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use: an implementation framework, National Science Review 6(6):1080-2.)
Species threatened by human-wildlife conflict include: African lion, cheetah, African elephant, gorilla, Mauritius fruit bat, Asian elephant, tiger, Philippine crocodile, king cobra, snow leopard, common leopard, great white shark, jaguar, Amazon river dolphin, polar bear, grey wolf, European hornet and Mediterranean monk seal (see pages 26-27 of report for map and details on each species)
WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) is one of the world’s largest independent conservation organisations, active in nearly 100 countries. Our supporters – more than five million of them – are helping us to restore nature and to tackle the main causes of nature’s decline, particularly the food system and climate change. We’re fighting to ensure a world with thriving habitats and species, and to change hearts and minds so it becomes unacceptable to overuse our planet’s resources.
WWF. For your world.
For wildlife, for people, for nature.
Find out more about our work, past and present at wwf.org.uk
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.