Human or tiger: Who wins?

Who wins?.. The human wildlife conflict (HWC) comprehends a large range of species, and contributes to declining wildlife populations. The impact of wild animals on humans and their activities can promote a negative attitude toward wildlife, including retaliatory killing. This is particularly the case when large carnivores like tigers are involved. Quantifying the direct impact of HWC only without taking into consideration the indirect impact of HWC may lead to a wrong conclusion about how big the impact of HWC is for entire communities. To address the HWC, an understanding of its characteristics, the magnitude of the conflict, and the human dimensions of HWC need to be known.

Human or tiger: Who wins

Human or tiger: Who wins

In this study, conflicts between humans and the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) as a model species (human tiger conflict, HTC) were analysed to understand the human dimension and factors associated with the HTC. A semi-structured interview was conducted in West Sumatra, Indonesia among 128 respondents to collect data on the characteristics of the HTC, the impact associated with the HTC, the relative threat of the tiger to people’s income compared to other potentially harmful species, and the human dimension of HTC.

A total of 50 separate incidents of HTC were recorded over the past 40 years: 45 incidents on livestock depredations, and the other 5 incidents reported were fatal attacks on humans. Three broad categories of HTC were recorded: First, tiger attacks on livestock; in this case livestock are usually killed. The time for attacking livestock was usually at night. Second, tiger attacks on people; in such a situation, there is a high possibility that the person is killed by the tiger, or even if he/she could run away from the tiger, the victim usually suffered severe injuries. Third, the tiger approaches a village area; this situation happens either when the tiger coincidently passed the village area or when the tiger’s home range is close to the village area. All incidents on livestock depredations involved a large range of livestock sizes and were during the night, while attacks on humans occurred mostly during the day, when the victims carried out activities close to or within tiger habitat.

This study shows that calculating indirect impacts can explicitly explain the magnitude of the HTC in the community. In the case of human attacks, direct impacts seem to affect only 1.5% of the community members. Yet, by including indirect impacts too, over 98% of the community members were affected by HTC incidents. The analysis also showed that local people considered the damage caused by tigers not worse than those of several other potentially harmful animals. This suggests that studying human wildlife conflict should not only focus on the target species, but the impact of other potentially harmful species should be taken into consideration as well.

Furthermore, the analysis of the human dimension of HTC found that the emotions of people toward tigers are inversely correlated with their conservation attitude and their level of tolerance toward tiger. Key determinants explaining human dimension factors are impact perceived as a result of HTC the intensity of environmental educations in the village, field location and ethnicity. Frequency of HTC, knowledge and gender each seem to have only a small impact on shaping human dimension factors.

This study suggests that an integrated program combining environmental education, compensation for livestock and human losses, and community involvement to handle the HTC are recommended to improve local people’s tolerance for tigers. In the end it is not necessary to find who the winner between humans and tiger is. The most important is to find how human and tiger can coexist in certain landscape.

*Member of IUCN’s Commission on Education and Communication and also expert at Ministry of Environment and Forestry. She is the founder Wild Eye, an NGO in Indonesia that specialises in community engagement for conservation. She has Masters degree in Forest and Nature Conservation from Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

*Original title: Human or tiger: Who wins? Understanding key determinants and human dimensions of human tiger conflict in West Sumatra Indonesia

This article originally appeared in : Human or tiger: Who wins?.. | REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, By Erlinda Cahya Kartika and Ignas Heitkönig | Tuesday, 20 January 2015, 19:21 WIB

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