The new task force – the first of its kind to focus on human-wildlife conflict – will bring together leading experts to provide guidance and specialist support to address the issue worldwide.
Human-wildlife conflict arises when animals pose a direct and recurring threat to the livelihood or safety of people which results in the persecution of that species. It affects most large carnivores, elephants, pigs, primates, sharks, seals, birds of prey, crocodiles and rhinos, amongst many others.
People retaliating against animals that pose a threat to their community has already led to the extinction of several species and is responsible for huge population declines of many more, including bears, lynx and cheetahs.
Chester Zoo’s Head of Conservation Science and expert in human-wildlife conflict, Dr Alexandra Zimmermann, will chair the new task force, having spearheaded a number of research and conservation programmes on this topic around the world over the past two decades.
Dr Zimmermann said:
“There are immense challenges in addressing the problem of human-wildlife conflict around the world. The cultural, political and economic aspects at the root of these conflicts are often very complex and poorly understood. These conflicts can severely impact the security and wellbeing of the people of whom we ask for support for conservation.
“Mitigating human-wildlife conflict needs the collaboration of specialists from a range of different fields, so the experts serving on this task force will include not only biologists, but also for example social scientists, economists, anthropologists, social psychologists, peacebuilding experts, political ecologists, and specialists in poverty alleviation.”
Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission said:
“Human-wildlife conflict is among the most serious threats to many species around the world. Communities that can safely share landscapes with wildlife are essential for the future of conservation, but achieving this requires a truly interdisciplinary approach. The SSC’s new Task Force will bring together such a range of international expertise, so that we can begin to tackle the conflict challenge at a global scale and support species conservation around the world.”
Chester Zoo has been actively working on human-wildlife conflict around the world for over a decade.
Together with partner organisation Ecosystems-India, the zoo has tackled human-elephant conflict in Assam, India, dramatically reducing crop-raiding, keeping elephants and people safe from each other, while helping around 75 villages and over 600 people support conservation and develop new sources of sustainable income.
In the Terai of Nepal, where human-tiger conflict is threatening to undermine the tiger population increase the country has achieved, Chester Zoo is working with Green Governance Nepal to ensure the safety of 1200 families from poor communities living in close proximity to tigers at the edges of national parks.
Meanwhile, together the Wildlife Research Conservation Unit of Oxford University, the zoo has recently completed the largest study of human-jaguar conflicts across Latin America and is also currently developing scientific research and human-wildlife conflict initiatives for jaguars in Brazil and Andean bears in Bolivia.