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Human-carnivore interaction in a context of socio-productive crisis: Assessing smallholder strategies for reducing predation in North-west Patagonia, Argentina

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Abstract

Mitigating carnivore-livestock interaction is essential to ensuring the persistence of carnivores in landscapes dominated by livestock activity. Our aim was to explore, in the context of social and productive crises triggered by environmental events, the values and attitudes adopted by smallholders in relation to wild carnivores. We performed semi-structured interviews on issues related to the management decisions of the productive system. To study the relative importance and associations among different factors, we constructed causal maps and used centrality measures based on network analysis to identify the dominant discourse. Although carnivores were perceived as one of the central problems of the map, retaliatory killing was not a central loss-prevention strategy. Smallholders turned to semi-intensification of livestock practices to increase the efficiency of their production as a response to different perceived problems. Lethal control techniques were weakly associated with a subsidized control system, which the state implements to stimulate the hunting of carnivores. Whereas policies were oriented to control native wild predators as the major source of disturbance, strategies of smallholders were based on adaptive responses to multiple perceived problems. This work provides new insights to improve the monitoring of mitigation measures to promote effective evidence-based policy.

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... In some areas (such as central Patagonia) the culpeo is considered the main predator of livestock, even more harmful than pumas (Llanos et al., 2019). Livestock losses determine a negative perception of the species on the part of the farmers, which causes the culpeo to be persecuted legally and/or illegally (Bellati, 1992a;Travaini et al., 2000b;Lucherini and Merino, 2008;Gáspero et al., 2018). Culpeos are heavily hunted with traps, dogs and poison in certain regions, where up to 75% of the local population can be eliminated each year . ...
... Culpeos are heavily hunted with traps, dogs and poison in certain regions, where up to 75% of the local population can be eliminated each year . In Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and some regions of Argentina, hunting of culpeos is now permitted as a predator control strategy to reduce damage to livestock (Lucherini, 2016;Gáspero et al., 2018). In Ecuador, carrion poisoning to control livestock predators illegally, especially feral dogs, is also killing culpeos (A. ...
... comm.). Certainly, the use of poison is widespread, and it is one of the methods preferred by farmers to control carnivores (Gáspero et al., 2018). ...
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... Several factors influence intensification decisions and technology adoption at the farm level. Technology adoption is multi-causal and depends on structural characteristics, farmer´s strategies, and external factors such as extension systems, product prices, climatic events, or the perceived threat of livestock predation by wild carnivores (Zander et al., 2013;Gáspero et al., 2018;Balehegn et al., 2020). Moreover, livestock intensification decisions are also determined by the household resources and strategies to ensure sufficient food for families or to increase farm incomes (Udo et al., 2011;Godde et al., 2017). ...
... Although these farms had the highest production efficiencies (see Table 3 and Fig. 5), improvements in marking rates could be achieved by increasing offspring survival from their major threats (i.e. cold, wind, and carnivorous predation) through in-door birth and over-night confinement during birth season, which are partially adopted in the region (Gáspero et al., 2018). On the other hand, increasing reproduction rhythm as a strategy to increase marking rates would not be recommended although sheep multi-period lambing has proven to buffer the systems' variability in face of technical and market hazards . ...
Preprint
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... These conflicts happen mainly because of suspected predation on livestock and on some wild species with trophy hunting interests [11]. These human carnivore conflicts are a worldwide problem [10,12] with plenty of examples of carnivores killing livestock or even attacking humans. Carnivores have an essential role in the community of which they are part of, primarily by regulating it through trophic cascades. ...
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... We found that several mammal species are persecuted due to the damage they cause on livestock or crops. For instance, ranchers perceived pumas and jaguars as a threat to their production and economy due to felid predation on livestock; pursuing and killing the felids is often the ranchers' main solution to this problem in many areas of South America (e.g., Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Colombia) Palmeira et al. 2008;Carvalho and Pezzuti 2010;Garrote 2012;Guerisoli et al. 2017;Gáspero et al. 2018;Villalva and Palomares 2019;Nanni et al. 2020). Of concern, in some geographical areas (e.g., Argentina), provincial governments even promote lethal strategies (e.g., trapping or hunting with firearms) to control predators such as pumas and foxes (Llanos et al. 2014 Aximoff et al. 2020;Bickley et al. 2020). ...
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... These conflicts happen mainly because of suspected predation on livestock and on some wild species with trophy hunting interests [11]. These human carnivore conflicts are a worldwide problem [10,12] with plenty of examples of carnivores killing livestock or even attacking humans. Carnivores have an essential role in the community of which they are part of, primarily by regulating it through trophic cascades. ...
Article
Full-text available
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Several interdependent strategies have allowed pastoralists to survive for centuries in patchy and unpredictable low-productivity environments while sustaining their resource base: mobility, diversity, flexibility, reciprocity and reserves. Recent decades have witnessed curtailed mobility due to agricultural expansion into rangelands, the establishment and enforcement of political and administrative boundaries, the usurpation of local institutional control and disruption of local practices, increased labour costs, and the development of stationary goods and services. Pastoralists have responded by becoming sedentary, diversifying or intensifying their production strategies, leaving the herding sector, or adapting and transforming their practices and institutions. While these trends may be significant, an historical precedence of ebbs and surges in mobility indicates they may not be new or unidirectional. Emerging political trends and technologies may provide an opportunity for pastoral populations to maintain or increase their mobility in the future, but will the customary pastoral institutions that support sustainable practices still be viable, or will new, viable institutions emerge? These institutions are often subtle, contextual, and norm-based; 'invisible' and easily dismantled or replaced by more authoritarian regimes. There is relatively little understanding of how they work or how to support them. Without them, the trend may be towards open access or privatization.
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Modelling ecological or environmental problems has potential to provide understanding of the causes of such problems and to indicate how to better manage them. Özesmi and Özesmi (2004) showed that cognitive or causal mapping can be used to develop maps of socio-ecological systems but these maps were based on stakeholders concerned with one ecosystem. This article shows how maps from a number of different dairy farmers in different locations, but each considering his or her own farm, can be used in meta analysis to make maps that represent how farmers think their farm ecosystem works. It also shows that the combination of causal mapping with the additional technique of Q method provides a useful solution to the practical problem of selecting from a sufficiently broad range of factors with potential to use in a map. Causal mapping in single or multiple locations contributes to the goal of using peoples’ knowledge of ecosystems to improve our understanding of socio-ecological systems.
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African lion (Panthera leo) populations are in decline throughout most of Africa, but the problem is particularly acute in southern Kenya, where Maasai people are spearing and poisoning lions at a rate that will ensure near term local extinction. Lion killing is shaped by Maasai perception of livestock depredation, socio-economic factors, and the complex relationship between Maasai and conservation. These all affect tolerance for lions and consequently Maasai behavior towards conservation initiatives and carnivores in general. We used an in-depth quantitative questionnaire and participatory rural appraisals (PRAs) to identify the social and ecological predictors of lion killing and to investigate the effect of a compensation scheme on individual tolerance. Individuals who lose a greater proportion of their livestock to predators relative to their overall livestock loss, those affiliated with an evangelical church, and those who mainly sell rather than accumulate livestock all reported a higher propensity to kill carnivores. The future of carnivore conservation in this region depends on a better understanding of the nuances of human–carnivore conflict and a concerted effort to address appropriate cultural and community-level institutions, chiefly by providing economic benefits to local people who engage in positive conservation activities.
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1. Illegal human behaviour such as those affecting natural resource use or resulting from human–wildlife conflicts threaten the sustainable management of ecosystems and the conservation of biodiversity worldwide. However, the frequently scarce and incomplete data owing to the sensitive nature of illegal activities pose a challenge to developing tools to properly understand and prevent those activities. 2. We used species distribution models to identify factors related to a prominent illegal activity, wildlife poisoning, and to produce detailed, spatially explicit maps of the risk of occurrence in NW Spain. We alleviated the constraints of imperfect information and occurrence of absences by using presence-only methods, that is, maximum entropy modelling (MaxEnt). To our knowledge, this is the first time that this method has been used in the context of illegal activities affecting wildlife. 3. A total of 112 poisoning events involving 228 individuals of 25 different species were reported in the study area from 2000 to 2010. Most of the reported deaths (90·8%) were birds of prey (52·6%) and mammalian carnivores (38·2%), of which 95·2% were scavengers. Illegal poisoning affected eleven species classified as endangered at national and/or global level. 4. Our models highlighted the perceived risk of livestock predation by wolves Canis lupus, although not by bears Ursus arctos, as a major motivation for poisoning. The existence of protected areas was positively correlated to this illegal practice, while socioeconomic factors had less influence on predicting its occurrence. Over 56% of the study area was predicted to be under risk of illegal poisoning. 5. Synthesis and applications. We demonstrate a new use for presence-only models, illustrated using MaxEnt, to assist conservation managers dealing with illegal activities. This approach allows the main causes of an illegal practice to be identified and generates spatially explicit risk maps. Managers can take advantage of this modelling approach to allocate the scarce resources available in conservation to key sectors and locations. In our study system, actions against illegal poisoning should aim to resolve the potential conflict existing between cattle-farming and wolves, especially in protected areas.
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Carnivore conservation depends on the sociopolitical landscape as much as the biological landscape. Changing political attitudes and views of nature have shifted the goals of carnivore management from those based on fear and narrow economic interests to those based on a better understanding of ecosystem function and adaptive management. In parallel, aesthetic and scientific arguments against lethal control techniques are encouraging the development of nonlethal approaches to carnivore management. We anticipate greater success in modifying the manner and frequency with which the activities of humans and domestic animals intersect with those of carnivores. Success should permit carnivore populations to persist for decades despite human population growth and modification of habitat.Resumen: La conservación de carnívoros depende tanto del paisaje sociopolítico como del paisaje biológico. Cambios en las actitudes políticas y percepciones de la naturaleza han cambiado las metas de manejo de carnívoros de aquéllas basadas en el miedo y las intereses económicos estrechos a metas basadas en un mejor entendimiento del funcionamiento del ecosistema y en el manejo adaptativo. A su vez, los argumentos estéticos y científicos en contra de las técnicas de control letal están fomentando el desarrollo de planteamientos no letales en la gestión de carnívoros. Anticipamos un mayor éxito en la modificación del modo y la frecuencia en que las actividades de humanos y animales domésticos intersectan con las de carnívoros. El éxito debe permitir que las poblaciones de carnívoros persistan por décadas a pesar del crecimiento de la población humana y la modificación de hábitats.
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Human–wildlife conflict is one of the most critical threats facing many wildlife species today, and the topic is receiving increasing attention from conservation biologists. Direct wildlife damage is commonly cited as the main driver of conflict, and many tools exist for reducing such damage. However, significant conflict often remains even after damage has been reduced, suggesting that conflict requires novel, comprehensive approaches for long-term resolution. Although most mitigation studies investigate only the technical aspects of conflict reduction, peoples' attitudes towards wildlife are complex, with social factors as diverse as religious affiliation, ethnicity and cultural beliefs all shaping conflict intensity. Moreover, human–wildlife conflicts are often manifestations of underlying human–human conflicts, such as between authorities and local people, or between people of different cultural backgrounds. Despite evidence that social factors can be more important in driving conflict than wildlife damage incurred, they are often ignored in conflict studies. Developing a broader awareness of conflict drivers will advance understanding of the patterns and underlying processes behind this critical conservation issue. In this paper, I review a wide variety of case studies to show how social factors strongly influence perceptions of human–wildlife conflict, and highlight how mitigation approaches should become increasingly innovative and interdisciplinary in order to enable people to move from conflict towards coexistence.
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1. Wild predators sometimes kill livestock. In Australia the red fox kills lambs, but there are limited experimental data to demonstrate the effects of controlling foxes on the predation level. 2. Using a balanced experimental design over 2 years, we investigated the effects of three levels of fox control, using poisoning with sodium monofluoroacetate (compound 1080), on lamb production, lamb predation and fox abundance in south-eastern Australia. 3. There was no effect of fox control on lamb production. Fox predation was the probable cause of lamb death for a minimum of 0·8% and a maximum of 5·3% of 1321 lamb carcasses. Fox control significantly (P < 0·05) reduced the minimum percentage of lamb carcasses classified as killed by foxes from 1·50% (no fox control) to 0·90% (fox control once per year) or 0·25% (fox control three times per year). Fox control also significantly (P < 0·005) reduced the maximum percentage of lamb carcasses classified as killed by foxes from 10·25% (no fox control) to 6·50% (fox control once per year) or 3·75% (fox control three times per year). Poisoning did not affect fox abundance in spring. 4. We estimated the number of treatment replicates needed to detect an effect of predator control on the number of lambs successfully reared to lamb marking (10 weeks old). The estimated numbers were high if predation effects were small. It is recommended that the effects of fox control should be evaluated carefully to determine if the present results are widespread, as some fox control may be wasted. 5. The general effects of predator control on livestock predation requires more experimental investigation and economic evaluation. However, field experiments of sufficient power to detect effects will present considerable challenge.
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ABSTRACT • The production of food for human consumption has led to an historical and global conflict with terrestrial carnivores, which in turn has resulted in the extinction or extirpation of many species, although some have benefited. At present, carnivores affect food production by: (i) killing human producers; killing and/or eating (ii) fish/shellfish; (iii) game/wildfowl; (iv) livestock; (v) damaging crops; (vi) transmitting diseases; and (vii) through trophic interactions with other species in agricultural landscapes. Conversely, carnivores can themselves be a source of dietary protein (bushmeat). • Globally, the major areas of conflict are predation on livestock and the transmission of rabies. At a broad scale, livestock predation is a customary problem where predators are present and has been quantified for a broad range of carnivore species, although the veracity of these estimates is equivocal. Typically, but not always, losses are small relative to the numbers held, but can be a significant proportion of total livestock mortality. Losses experienced by producers are often highly variable, indicating that factors such as husbandry practices and predator behaviour may significantly affect the relative vulnerability of properties in the wider landscape. Within livestock herds, juvenile animals are particularly vulnerable. • Proactive and reactive culling are widely practised as a means to limit predation on livestock and game. Historic changes in species' distributions and abundance illustrate that culling programmes can be very effective at reducing predator density, although such substantive impacts are generally considered undesirable for native predators. However, despite their prevalence, the effectiveness, efficiency and the benefit:cost ratio of culling programmes have been poorly studied. • A wide range of non-lethal methods to limit predation has been studied. However, many of these have their practical limitations and are unlikely to be widely applicable. • Lethal approaches are likely to dominate the management of terrestrial carnivores for the foreseeable future, but animal welfare considerations are increasingly likely to influence management strategies. The adoption of non-lethal approaches will depend upon proof of their effectiveness and the willingness of stakeholders to implement them, and, in some cases, appropriate licensing and legislation. • Overall, it is apparent that we still understand relatively little about the importance of factors affecting predation on livestock and how to manage this conflict effectively. We consider the following avenues of research to be essential: (i) quantified assessments of the loss of viable livestock; (ii) landscape-level studies of contiguous properties to quantify losses associated with variables such as different husbandry practices; (iii) replicated experimental manipulations to identify the relative benefit of particular management practices, incorporating (iv) techniques to identify individual predators killing stock; and (v) economic analyses of different management approaches to quantify optimal production strategies.