Tolerance for predatory wildlife dependent on social factors

May 2, 2014

While promoting human tolerance is critical to the success of predator conservation efforts, the factors that affect people’s tolerance of wildlife are not well understood.

A new paper published today (May 2) in Science seeks to help fill that knowledge gap, drawing on the latest data from around the world for insights that could aid future recovery and restoration efforts.

Adrian Treves, an associate professor in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison, and Jeremy Bruskotter of the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University reviewed and interpreted recent studies of human tolerance toward large, predatory animals such as jaguars, wolves, lions and bears in Sweden, Kenya, Brazil and North America. Their analysis includes research by Nelson Institute graduate student Jamie Hogberg and others affiliated with the institute.

Treves and Bruskotter suggest that human tolerance toward predators depends on social factors and can be influenced by information on the risks and benefits of the predators. Their analysis challenges the conventional view that intolerance and intention to kill predators result primarily from perceived threats to livelihoods.

While monetary incentives for predator tolerance appear to have been successful in several cases, they cite evidence that predator poaching is influenced more strongly by social factors, such as peer group norms and government-sanctioned predator killing.

The authors recommend caution in legalizing the killing of predators. Rather, they suggest that experimentally manipulating monetary and social incentives would help conservationists determine which factors influence poaching and intolerant behavior toward predators, both individually and across cultures.

This fall, supported by a Fulbright Scholar grant, Treves will travel to the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Grimsö to continue to study conservation conflicts and how to balance human needs with predator conservation.

View the article by Treves and Bruskotter on the Science magazine website.

Related:

Jaguar photo by Edson Grandisoli. The photo was taken in Taiamã Ecological Station, Northern Pantanal, state of Mato Grosso, Brazil.