Every year, hundreds of humans and thousands of animals die due to human-wildlife conflicts (HWC). Habitat loss and in some instances conservation successes combined with an ever-increasing human population has resulted in humans and wild animals living in closer proximity and sharing the same scarce resources. The conservation of animals is an important global good, but the reality is that those living with wildlife usually carry the cost associated with this conservation imperative, including loss of income, essential crops to support their livelihoods and tragically sometimes also loss of human life.
The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), adopted in Montreal in December 2022, includes a target that specifically seeks to address this growing problem. Target 4 calls on those seeking to implement the GBF to ‘…effectively manage human-wildlife interactions to minimize human-wildlife conflict for coexistence.’ HWC could contribute to biodiversity loss and addressing it effectively could reduce these losses, create opportunities for people to benefit from living with wildlife and save human lives.
The international conference on Human-Wildlife Conflict and Coexistence that took place in Oxford, United Kingdom, from 30 March to 1 April 2023 brought together government representatives, organizations, community representatives and experts, to discuss and debate insights and solutions for human-wildlife conflict management, the collaboration required across disciplines and sectors to address this and to foster healthy and beneficial co-existence of people and wildlife. It was organised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission Human-Wildlife Conflict & Coexistence Specialist Group (HWCCSG) and various partners.
CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero, was there, along with other senior staff from the CITES Secretariat as the Convention will contribute to the implementation of the GBF through the implementation of its mandate. In this regard, CITES has an important role to play to ensure international trade is legal and sustainable and therefore could provide benefits to people living with wildlife and that illegal trade sometimes associated with conflict is addressed. The CITES Secretary-General is the Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management. The CPW has prioritized the prevention, management and reduction of human-wildlife conflict and enhancement of coexistence. The Secretary-General gave the keynote speech on one of the most pressing issues facing human-wildlife conflict, and indeed conservation in general: finding the resources to fund biodiversity conservation and in this case, the management of human-wildlife conflict and promotion of coexistence. HWC carries a heavy price for local communities and funding for biodiversity restoration is currently lacking. Ms Higuero recognized that there have been pledges, through the Global Environment Facility of EUR1.5 billion per year but the GBF calls for mobilizing at least USD200 billion per year from public and private sources for biodiversity-related funding by 2030.
“The focus is now on translating the commitments at the international level into concrete actions on the ground supported by sufficient funds to implement and sustain actions, including actions to address human wildlife conflict and promote coexistence. Finding ways to connect the sources of funding and the areas where funds are most needed becomes the next challenge to address.”
The Oxford meeting also looked at a species-specific example that CITES is working on, the jaguar (Panthera onca). Since it was included in CITES Appendix I, illegal trade has dropped amidst a larger set of increasing threats facing the species, including habitat loss, fragmentation and increased conflict with humans over real or perceived livestock depredation.
One of the leading drivers of the current jaguar poaching is related to the negative consequences of human-jaguar coexistence, namely, conflict over livestock depredation, which is widespread throughout the jaguar range. Jaguars can predate on a wide range of livestock and domestic animals, from chicken to adult cattle and dogs. Livestock depredation by jaguars can cause substantial economic losses, and lead to negative attitudes towards jaguars and intolerance to their presence by local communities. Even though jaguar attacks on humans are rare, they occasionally do happen and fear of these attacks is sometimes enough to justify the persecution and elimination of jaguars.
A key finding of the study commissioned by the CITES Secretariat on this matter refers to the absence of a mechanism to collect in a systematic manner information in all range States. Such a system could enhance information on the types and causes of jaguar deaths; incidences of human-jaguar conflict; demographic data (sex and age) of jaguars killed; location of deaths/incidences of conflict; jaguar population estimates; and demand for jaguar specimens.
The discussion on jaguars by CITES Parties prompted a set of decisions on jaguars to be adopted at the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties that took place in November 2022 in Panama City, Panama. These decisions aim to address the aforementioned and other jaguar conservation concerns. The CITES Secretary-General believes that this work on jaguars will provide invaluable information, not just for this species, but in ways of mitigating the impact of HWC on both wildlife and humans.
“There is a need for a concerted continental response from range States to coordinate and work together to establish a long-term system for monitoring illegal killing of jaguars, and other key aspects related to jaguar conservation and to ensure appropriate law enforcement.
Many international, regional and national initiatives are underway to monitor jaguar populations, improve and connect their habitats, and tackle mortalities from human-jaguar conflict and the illegal trade in jaguars. These promise to advance jaguar conservation in the next decade. These efforts should be integrated and supported by all levels of society, particularly range State governments.”
Photos by ©Ed Nix Photos, International Conference (hwctf.org)