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University of Oxford (2017)

A stepwise approach to understanding and effectively mitigating human-wildlife interactions

Rodríguez, Rocío A. Pozo

Titre : A stepwise approach to understanding and effectively mitigating human-wildlife interactions

Auteur : Rodríguez, Rocío A. Pozo

Université de soutenance : University of Oxford

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2017

Résumé
The study of conflicts in conservation (also known as human-wildlife conflicts) is a growing field of research in areas where people and wildlife interact, because of the negative impacts each can have on the other. Addressing conflicts is certainly challenging because of the complexities of considering diverse interests from numerous stakeholders and the specific ecological and socio-economic characteristics of a given study system. No matter how complex the system under study is, the aim is in all cases to find effective and sustainable mitigation strategies for local people, as well as for wildlife conservation and local authorities. In this thesis, I look at two of the preliminary steps required to address conservation conflicts and develop efficient long-lasting management solutions : the gathering of ecological data and the assessment of mitigation strategies in the field. To do this, I use two case studies : crop-foraging by African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in northern Botswana, and selective hunting of the red deer (Cervus elaphus) population on the Isle of Rum in Scotland. In Chapter 2, I built a baseline for the level of conflict in the Okavango Delta Panhandle (Botswana) using temporal trends of crop-foraging by elephants as an index of the level of conflict, and subsequently looked at how this relates to trends in agricultural land allocated in the study area, as well as with trends in human and elephant population size. In Chapter 3, I mapped the distribution of the local population of elephants and assessed its interaction with landscape features and sites where crop-foraging events had been recorded. In both chapters (2 & 3) I found that -in general- the number of elephants was not a determinant of the level of conflict in the study area, but that the spatiotemporal distribution of the species as well as the spatial and temporal scales considered were. In the second half of my thesis, I assessed the effects of two common conflict mitigation methods : the use of deterrents (Chapter 4) and lethal control (Chapter 5). I first evaluated the effectiveness of chilli-briquettes in deterring elephants and secondly, I used a modelling approach to predict the demographic effects of increasing levels of selective hunting in a male red deer population. I found that both mitigation methods showed unexpected results, which would not have been detected had I not tested for them. This thesis highlights the advantages of applying methods that are based on informed decisions in areas of conflict, as well as the value of sharing results in conservation management. My findings contribute towards a better understanding of the negative impacts of human-wildlife interactions, which often lead to conservation conflicts, as well as contributing protocols and methodologies that can be adapted and applied elsewhere.

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