Wild carnivores and people
Understanding human response towards snow leopards and wolves
What is it about?
Carnivores can be considered as umbrella species that indicate the health of an ecosystem. From the conservation perspective, they often act as ‘flagships’ or surrogates for the landscapes they inhabit. The predominant narrative focussing on human-carnivore relationships is one of conflict as encounters with carnivores can have serious economic and psychological repercussions. However, not all interactions with carnivores are negative. My research is an attempt to complement our understanding of conflict with an understanding of tolerance. I am especially interested in exploring how people and carnivores coexist, and the role of religious and cultural beliefs in influencing this dynamic.
Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) and wolves (Canis lupus) co-occur in the Trans-Himalayan landscape. However, research shows that people have very different relationships with the two species, the former being better accepted than the latter. The reasons for this are unclear although studies indicate that cultural stereotypes and varying economic impacts have a role to play.
In the cold arid deserts of Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir) - surprisingly colourful, and elegantly stark in their beauty.
- Journal Article2017Impact of wild prey availability on livestock predation by snow leopards.Royal Society Open Science, 4(6), 170026.Download
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An increasing proportion of the world's poor is rearing livestock today, and the global livestock population is growing. Livestock predation by large carnivores and their retaliatory killing is becoming an economic and conservation concern. A common recommendation for carnivore conservation and for reducing predation on livestock is to increase wild prey populations based on the assumption that the carnivores will consume this alternative food. Livestock predation, however, could either reduce or intensify with increases in wild prey depending on prey choice and trends in carnivore abundance. We show that the extent of livestock predation by the endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia intensifies with increases in the density of wild ungulate prey, and subsequently stabilizes. We found that snow leopard density, estimated at seven sites, was a positive linear function of the density of wild ungulates—the preferred prey—and showed no discernible relationship with livestock density. We also found that modelled livestock predation increased with livestock density. Our results suggest that snow leopard conservation would benefit from an increase in wild ungulates, but that would intensify the problem of livestock predation for pastoralists. The potential benefits of increased wild prey abundance in reducing livestock predation can be overwhelmed by a resultant increase in snow leopard populations. Snow leopard conservation efforts aimed at facilitating increases in wild prey must be accompanied by greater assistance for better livestock protection and offsetting the economic damage caused by carnivores.
- Journal Article2016The Relationship Between Religion and Attitudes Toward Large Carnivores in Northern India?Human Dimension of Wildlife, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10871209.2016.1220034Download
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Evidence suggests that religion is an important driver of peoples’ attitudes toward nature, but the link between religion and carnivore conservation is poorly understood. We examined peoples’ attitudes in Buddhist (n = 83) and Muslim communities (n = 111) toward snow leopards (Panthera uncia) and wolves (Canis lupus) in Ladakh, India. We found that the effect of religion on attitudes was statistically nonsignificant, and was tempered by gender, education, and aware- ness of wildlife laws. Even though religion by itself was not an indication of an individual’s attitude toward large carnivores, the extent to which he/she practiced it (i.e., religiosity) had a positive correlation with pro-carnivore attitudes in the case of Buddhist but not Muslim communities. Our findings indicate that it may be useful to integrate locally relevant religious philosophies into conservation practice. However, the emphasis of conservation messaging should vary, stressing environmental stewardship in the case of Islam, and human–wildlife interdependence in the case of Buddhism.
- Journal Article2014Tilting at wildlife: reconsidering human–wildlife conflict2014 Fauna & Flora International, Oryx, 1–4, doi:10.1017/S0030605314000799Download
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Conflicts between people over wildlife are widespread and damaging to both the wildlife and people involved. Such issues are often termed human–wildlife conflicts. We argue that this term is misleading and may exacerbate the problems and hinder resolution. A review of 100 recent articles on human–wildlife conflicts reveals that 97 were between conservation and other human activities, particularly those associated with livelihoods. We suggest that we should distinguish between human–wildlife impacts and human–human conflicts and be explicit about the different interests involved in conflict. Those representing conservation interests should not only seek technical solutions to deal with the impacts but also consider their role and objectives, and focus on strategies likely to deliver long-term solutions for the benefit of biodiversity and the people involved.