By James Stevens, IUCN SSC Human-Wildlife Conflict Task Force, and Kristina Rodina, FAO
Each year, World Wildlife Day (3 March) presents an opportunity to celebrate the many stunning wildlife species on Earth. Wildlife provides a multitude of benefits to people and livelihoods.
In 2022, World Wildlife Day is held under the theme ‘Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration.’ Such recovery has been seen for wolves in parts of Europe, African elephants in some range states and many seal populations worldwide. To some, these are seen as long-overdue conservation successes. But others may consider them a threat.
Impacts of living with wildlife
In some areas, where wildlife overlaps with people, negative interactions such as crop damage, livestock predation or even injuries and deaths can occur. Retaliation towards the species can follow, with parties disagreeing over how to manage the situation. These situations have typically been called human-wildlife conflict.
Species recovery needs to be judiciously managed. Otherwise, it can drive human-wildlife conflict and undermine other conservation successes that have been already achieved. As the 2030 Agenda explicitly indicates, conserving wildlife is critical to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
One of the most important aspects to consider when addressing human-wildlife conflicts is the role of the local communities and the stakeholders affected by the wildlife in question, or those who are charged with managing the situation. Past efforts to address the detrimental impacts of wildlife on people and livelihoods have not always involved these groups adequately. What are the key elements of the efficacious engagement with local stakeholders when addressing human-wildlife conflicts?
The answer to this question is at the core of the Wildlife and Protected Area Management Programme of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) Task Force.
Good practices in East Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean
On the 2022 World Wildlife Day, FAO and the IUCN SSC HWC Task Force are publishing three case studies that highlight good processes of engagement with local communities and citizens to understand and address human-wildlife conflict situations. These cases exemplify conflicts that have arisen in Guyana, Tanzania, and India.
In Guyana, the Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Programme is working with local communities to reduce human-carnivore conflict by conducting participatory research with affected stakeholders. The research applies a community rights-based approach to ensure that indigenous peoples and local communities are fully involved in project design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of efforts to understand and resolve the conflict.
The Tanzania case study explains how, in collaboration with communities affected by large carnivores such as lions, hyaenas, and leopards, a community camera-trapping programme was co-developed between the local communities and the NGO Lion Landscapes. The objective of this programme was to deliver healthcare, veterinary, and educational benefits to the communities based on the presence of wildlife on village land.
The third case study draws the attention to India, where leopard attacks on the boundary of Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai led to the establishment of the ‘Mumbaikers for Sanjay Gandhi National Park’ project. This project mobilized various stakeholder groups composed of local citizens who wished to better understand the reasons for the attacks, conduct activities to reduce their occurrence and request assistance from local authorities. Engagement with local journalists created an opportunity to change the narrative and perception, from a focus on the attacks themselves to what the correct response should be.
All three case studies highlight essential aspects of strategically selecting the right stakeholders and engaging them into the process of planning and managing human-wildlife conflicts. This is equally essential in order to recover key species and restore their ecosystems.
As we celebrate World Wildlife Day on 3 March and the implementation of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) is ongoing, processes to recover species offer an opportunity to pre-emptively engage with stakeholders before negative interactions occur and plan for how any impacts might be prevented or mitigated to increase the chances for a sustainable coexistence.
The abovementioned case studies can be accessed in the Human-Wildlife Conflict and Coexistence Library. A webinar on the case studies can be accessed here. Over the coming months, the FAO and the IUCN SSC Human-Wildlife Conflict Task Force will be developing further case studies to provide more insights.
This guest article was written by James Stevens, Programme Officer, IUCN SSC Human-Wildlife Conflict Task Force, and Kristina Rodina, Forestry Officer, Wildlife and Protected Areas, FAO.
 The SWM Programme is an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and is funded by the European Union with co-funding from the French Facility for Global Environment and the French Development Agency. It is implemented through a consortium partnership, which includes the FAO, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).