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Understanding Coexistence With Wildlife.



) Understanding Human–Canid Conflict and Coexistence: Socioeconomic Correlates Underlying Local Attitude and Support Toward the Endangered Dhole (Cuon alpinus) in Bhutan.
EDITED BY : Simon Pooley, John D. C. Linnell, Ursula Münster,
Thom van Dooren and Alexandra Zimmermann
PUBLISHED IN : Frontiers in Conservation Science
Frontiers in Conservation Science 1March 2022 | Understanding Human-Wildlife Coexistence
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ISSN 1664-8714
ISBN 978-2-88974-637-8
DOI 10.3389/978-2-88974-637-8
Frontiers in Conservation Science 2March 2022 | Understanding Human-Wildlife Coexistence
Topic Editors:
Simon Pooley, University of London, United Kingdom
John D. C. Linnell, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Norway
Ursula Münster, University of Oslo, Norway
Thom van Dooren, The University of Sydney, Australia
Alexandra Zimmermann, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Citation: Pooley, S., Linnell, J. D. C., Münster, U., van Dooren, T., Zimmermann, A.,
eds. (2022). Understanding Coexistence With Wildlife. Lausanne: Frontiers Media SA.
doi: 10.3389/978-2-88974-637-8
Frontiers in Conservation Science 3March 2022 | Understanding Human-Wildlife Coexistence
05 Editorial: Understanding Coexistence With Wildlife
Simon Pooley, John D. C. Linnell, Ursula Münster, Thom van Dooren and
Alexandra Zimmermann
08 More Than Just No Conflict: Examining the Two Sides of the Coexistence
Saloni Bhatia
12 Sharing Spaces and Entanglements With Big Cats: The Warli and Their
Waghoba in Maharashtra, India
Ramya Nair, Dhee, Omkar Patil, Nikit Surve, Anish Andheria,
John D. C. Linnell and Vidya Athreya
26 Understanding Human–Canid Conflict and Coexistence: Socioeconomic
Correlates Underlying Local Attitude and Support Toward the Endangered
Dhole (Cuon alpinus) in Bhutan
Phuntsho Thinley, Rajanathan Rajaratnam, Lam Norbu, Lungten Dorji,
Jigme Tenzin, Chhimi Namgyal, Choney Yangzom, Tashi Wangchuk,
Sonam Wangdi, Tshering Dendup, Sonam Tashi and Cheten Wangmo
39 Beasts in the Garden: Human-Wildlife Coexistence in India’s Past and
Meera Anna Oommen
54 From Conflict to Conviviality? Transforming Human–Bear Relations in
Svetoslava Toncheva and Robert Fletcher
69 Welcoming Wolves? Governing the Return of Large Carnivores in
Traditional Pastoral Landscapes
Hanna L. Pettersson, Claire H. Quinn, George Holmes, Steven M. Sait and
José Vicente López-Bao
88 Coexistence Praxis: The Role of Resource Managers in Wolf-Livestock
Interactions on Federal Lands
Jeff Vance Martin, Kathleen Epstein, Robert M. Anderson and
Susan Charnley
104 Coexistence for Whom?
Simon Pooley
111 Conflict Is Integral to Human-Wildlife Coexistence
Catherine M. Hill
115 Ranchers’ Perspectives on Participating in Non-lethal Wolf-Livestock
Coexistence Strategies
Carol Bogezi, Lily M. van Eeden, Aaron J. Wirsing and John M. Marzluff
127 Coexisting With Different Human-Wildlife Coexistence Perspectives
Jenny Anne Glikman, Beatrice Frank, Kirstie A. Ruppert, Jillian Knox,
Carly C. Sponarski, Elizabeth Covelli Metcalf, Alexander L. Metcalf and
Silvio Marchini
133 Coexistence and Culture: Understanding Human Diversity and Tolerance
in Human-Elephant Interactions
Tarsh Thekaekara, Shonil A. Bhagwat and Thomas F. Thornton
Table of Contents
Frontiers in Conservation Science 4March 2022 | Understanding Human-Wildlife Coexistence
150 The Arts of Coexistence: A View From Anthropology
Sara Asu Schroer
156 Corrigendum: The Arts of Coexistence: A View From Anthropology
Sara Asu Schroer
157 Wild Boar Events and the Veterinarization of Multispecies Coexistence
Ludek Broz, Aníbal Garcia Arregui and Kieran O’Mahony
167 The Coexistence Potential of Different Wildlife Conservation Frameworks
in a Historical Perspective
Bjørn P. Kaltenborn and John D. C. Linnell
published: 14 February 2022
doi: 10.3389/fcosc.2022.830971
Frontiers in Conservation Science | 1February 2022 | Volume 3 | Article 830971
Edited by:
Krithi K. Karanth,
Centre for Wildlife Studies, India
Reviewed by:
Jared D. Margulies,
University of Alabama, United States
Adrian Treves,
University of Wisconsin-Madison,
United States
Simon Pooley
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Human-Wildlife Dynamics,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Conservation Science
Received: 07 December 2021
Accepted: 10 January 2022
Published: 14 February 2022
Pooley S, Linnell JDC, Münster U, van
Dooren T and Zimmermann A (2022)
Editorial: Understanding Coexistence
With Wildlife.
Front. Conserv. Sci. 3:830971.
doi: 10.3389/fcosc.2022.830971
Editorial: Understanding Coexistence
With Wildlife
Simon Pooley 1,2
*, John D. C. Linnell 3,4 , Ursula Münster5, Thom van Dooren5,6 and
Alexandra Zimmermann 7
1Department of Geography, Birkbeck, University of London, London, United Kingdom, 2School of Life Sciences, University of
KwaZulu-Natal, Scottsville, South Africa, 3Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Trondheim, Norway, 4Inland
Norway University of Applied Sciences, Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management, Koppang, Norway, 5Faculty of
Humanities, Oslo School of Environmental Humanities, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway, 6Faculty of Arts and Social
Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 7Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology,
Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Keywords: human-wildlife coexistence, human-wildlife conflict (HWC), diversity, interdisciplinary, conservation
Editorial on the Research Topic
Understanding Coexistence With Wildlife
As humans and wildlife come into increasing contact under the pressures of climate change, human
development, successful conservation and wildlife recovery, and zoonoses, it is urgent that we
learn to facilitate coexistence with wildlife in shared multi-use landscapes, for the wellbeing of
both wildlife and people. The terms “human-wildlife conflict” and “human-wildlife coexistence
are both used in work aiming to achieve this, but in both cases a variety of definitions exist. While
the term “coexistence” is being increasingly mentioned, possibly linked to a preference for a positive
framing of human-wildlife interactions in particular, it is not often defined (see however Pooley in
this special issue), and remains understudied. This is partly because conservation scientists are less
familiar and less comfortable with the kinds of questions and methodologies required to study
human-wildlife coexistence. It is also easier to study things you can count (impacts, e.g., attacks,
extent of damage or frequency of interactions) than coexistence, which often involves not doing
things (e.g., refraining from retaliation or protesting). This collection of papers offers the most
comprehensive and cross disciplinary examination of human-wildlife coexistence published so far.
Human-wildlife conflict research increasingly draws on approaches from a diversity of social
science and humanities disciplines in order to better understand human-human conflicts over
interactions with wildlife. The emphasis in human-wildlife conflict is on understanding and
addressing conflicts between different groups of people over wildlife, and reducing negative impacts
of wildlife on humans and vice versa. Here, research often focuses on risks and benefits of sharing
a landscape with wild animals of conservation concern, and attempts to analyse and influence
decision-making over how to do so. Solutions often proposed include separating humans and
wildlife, or providing material benefits and compensations to those sharing landscapes with wildlife.
This is vital work of direct relevance to policymakers and managers. Some additional dimensions
that human-wildlife coexistence studies add to this research focus include a direct interest in
positive human-wildlife interactions, and in this context, broader consideration of different ways
of valuing and interacting with wildlife and the natural world.
Pooley et al. Editorial: Understanding Human-Wildlife Coexistence
In our call for papers for this special issue, we asked
contributors to think, about what the scope of human-wildlife
coexistence should encompass, and how to study it. We wanted to
learn more about coexistence from those places where it is being
actively cultivated and researched. The focus of this special issue
is on reasons for—and approaches to—coexistence which are not
directly related to the material costs or benefits of living with
particular species of wild animals. We were particularly interested
in human-wildlife interactions in “everyday” shared/mixed-use
landscapes, rather than only iconic conservation landscapes.
We did not offer contributors any definition of coexistence;
rather, we suggested that authors should think through their
own conceptions of coexistence. We suggest that conservationists
should take care when generalizing such conceptions when
attempting to facilitate coexistence in particular scenarios of
human-wildlife interaction. We agree with contributors Glikman
et al. when they advocate for working with those with relevant
interests to define coexistence for particular scenarios. As noted
by Pooley in his perspective piece, this requires self-reflexivity
and recognition of difference.
This special issue offers a rich diversity of perspectives on,
and approaches to, human-wildlife coexistence—without
claiming to represent that diversity comprehensively. We
were delighted to received submissions from authors
with backgrounds from both the Global North and South.
Contributors come from a diversity of academic and sectoral
backgrounds, with training variously in applied sciences,
natural and social sciences, including anthropology, biology,
conservation science, critical social science, environmental
science, forestry, geography and zoology. Several papers are
interdisciplinary efforts. The geographic range of the studies
is also reasonably wide, spanning North America, Europe, and
South Asia.
Although we collectively selected those abstracts that fitted
our aims for the special issue, and checked first submissions to
confirm their fit, we did not edit every paper (not appropriate for
any we authored or co-authored, for instance). We are pleased
with the stimulating diversity of approaches and proposals
included, but equally these do not necessarily represent our own
views or approaches.
We have presented the shorter opinion and perspective pieces
first (Part 1), followed by the longer research papers (Part
2). The former raise key conceptual matters influencing how
we think about human-wildlife coexistence. These include
reflections on whether and how to define human-wildlife
coexistence and some of the key ethical implications of trying to
facilitate coexistence (Pooley), negative and positive dimensions
of coexistence and how to encourage the latter (Bhatia),
the importance of not excluding conflict from conceptions
of coexistence (Hill), and the usefulness of relational rather
than dualistic frameworks for thinking about human-wildlife
interactions (Schroer). Glikman et al.’s surveys reveal the
diversity of perspectives among conservationists on concepts of
coexistence, tolerance and acceptance. Kaltenborn and Linnell
explore how coexistence ideas fit with the many different
conservation subdisciplines, strategies and paradigms currently
competing for primacy.
The richness of the discussions and investigations in
the full-length research papers (Part 2) are too diverse to
summarize here, so a few general points must suffice. Notably,
the selected papers encompass studies of a wide range of
those with important interests in human-wildlife coexistence
scenarios, including: conservation managers (Vance Martin
et al.), ranchers (Bogezi et al.), farmers (Thinley et al.),
and locals including villagers sharing landscapes with wildlife
(Toncheva and Fletcher;Thekaekara et al.). This demonstrates
the need to consider a wide range of interests—not forgetting
those of wild animals—when attempting to understand and
foster coexistence.
The historical and cultural dimensions required to make sense
of the dynamic nature of human-wildlife relations over time are
the focus of papers by Broz et al.,Oommen, and Thekaekara et al.
Papers by Oommen,Nair et al., and Thekaekara et al. emphasize
what we can learn from indigenous approaches to coexisting with
wild animals that can have negative impacts on humans, their
crops or livestock. Broz et al. provide insights into the emerging
discourse of veterinization associated with zoonoses and wildlife
disease management.
Finally, while we do not advocate for any one approach
to fostering human-wildlife coexistence, several papers in this
special issue offer fascinating recommendations for doing so,
including conceptual frameworks suggested by Pettersson et al.,
and Toncheva and Fletcher.
Thinking about human-wildlife coexistence requires us to widen
the aperture on what we consider important in the study of
human-wildlife interactions, and therefore on how to study
them. This special issue will introduce readers to ideas and
approaches and readings not often encountered in mainstream
conservation science contexts, and hopefully will stimulate
further interdisciplinary thinking and studies in this exciting and
growing area.
Drafted by SP. All authors contributed to the article and approved
the submitted version.
We thank the handling editors, Frontiers team and reviewers for
their time, expertise and assistance in producing this special issue.
Frontiers in Conservation Science | 2February 2022 | Volume 3 | Article 830971
Pooley et al. Editorial: Understanding Human-Wildlife Coexistence
Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that the research
was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial
relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict
of interest.
Publisher’s Note: All claims expressed in this article are solely those
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organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers.
Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may
be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the
Copyright © 2022 Pooley, Linnell, Münster, van Dooren and Zimmermann. This
is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums
is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited
and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted
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comply with these terms.
Frontiers in Conservation Science | 3February 2022 | Volume 3 | Article 830971
published: 09 June 2021
doi: 10.3389/fcosc.2021.688307
Frontiers in Conservation Science | 1June 2021 | Volume 2 | Article 688307
Edited by:
Simon Pooley,
Birkbeck, University of London,
United Kingdom
Reviewed by:
Juliette Young,
Institute national de recherche pour
l’agriculture, l’alimentation et
l’environnement (INRAE), France
Saloni Bhatia
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Human-Wildlife Dynamics,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Conservation Science
Received: 30 March 2021
Accepted: 17 May 2021
Published: 09 June 2021
Bhatia S (2021) More Than Just No
Conflict: Examining the Two Sides of
the Coexistence Coin.
Front. Conserv. Sci. 2:688307.
doi: 10.3389/fcosc.2021.688307
More Than Just No Conflict:
Examining the Two Sides of the
Coexistence Coin
Saloni Bhatia*
Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India
Keywords: peace, violence, human-wildlife conflict, human-wildlife interactions, tolerance
Human-wildlife coexistence is an understudied field within the Human Dimensions literature.
Primarily due to the difficulty in defining, studying and implementing its various facets, researchers
and practitioners often end up defining it by what it is not – for example, the absence of violence
or retaliation (Nyhus, 2016). Based on Carter and Linnell’s 2016 definition, (Pooley et al., 2020,
p. 2) described coexistence as “a sustainable though dynamic state, where humans and wildlife
coadapt to sharing landscapes and human interactions with wildlife are effectively governed to
ensure wildlife populations persist in socially legitimate ways that ensure tolerable risk levels.”
I would like to further complement the idea of coexistence as a dynamic, co-adaptive state by
proposing that it can comprise at least two dimensions – negative and positive. To explore this
concept, I draw upon Galtungs 1964 definition of negative and positive peace.
Considered by many as the Father of Peace Studies, Galtung offered an alternative theory of
peace at a time when the dominant definition of peace was circumscribed to the absence of war or
assault (Chambers, 2004; Gleditsch et al., 2014). He suggested that violence often took place in an
environment where basic human needs had not been met. These included “most basic needs” such
as life and survival, to “basic needs” such as food, health, and education, to “near-basic needs” such
as freedom, career, and political participation, to “peoples relation to nature” (Al-Abedine, 2017,
p. 85).
The unfulfillment of human needs, according to him, led to “freezing” (e.g., apathy, withdrawal)
or “boiling” (e.g., revolt, mutiny) (Rubenstein, 1990). Instability in political or domestic settings
resulted in direct violence (e.g., wars, assault, terrorism), which was often a symptom of deep-seated
structural and/or cultural inequities (Galtung, 2000). He thus considered violence as a triangle with
direct, cultural and structural dimensions as its three sides. These ideas were crucial in advancing
the definition of peace.
According to Forcey (1989), peace does not imply the absence of conflicts but instead, the
absence of violence. Galtung defines peace as the progression toward mutually accepted social goals,
which may be complex and difficult, but not impossible to attain (Galtung, 1969). By extension,
negative peace can be understood as the absence of direct or visible violence. It is the cessation of
undesirable oppression or retaliation. Positive peace, on the other hand, refers to the integration of
human society (Galtung, 1964, p. 2). He later defined positive peace as the absence of structural and
cultural forms of violence, which are often invisible (Galtung and Fischer, 2013). Positive peace thus
relies on the creation of structures, institutions and attitudes that facilitate social justice, well-being,
and harmony for all. Negative and positive peace may be separate dimensions but cannot exist
without each other.
Since the goal of peace theory is to understand and further coexistence between
individuals and groups, I argue that Galtung’s ideas can also be applied to better understand
human-wildlife coexistence.
Bhatia Two Sides of Human-Wildlife Coexistence
My central argument is that coexistence between people and
wildlife can have “negative” and “positive” dimensions. To
illustrate this, I refer to Bhatia et al.s 2019 argument that
tolerance – an essential component of coexistence – is a
spectrum going from manifested intolerance (negative attitudes
and behaviors toward wildlife) to stewardship (positive attitudes
and behaviors toward wildlife) (Figure 1). Manifested intolerance
comprises incidents that result in violence toward wildlife
– a straightforward example of conservation conflict. Latent
intolerance on the other hand, refers to the negative attitudes that
do not result in violence toward wildlife which, along with neutral
responses (ambivalent attitudes and behaviors), can be termed
negative coexistence.
Negative coexistence can thus be defined as a state in which
people do not engage in any form of retaliatory killing or
harm to wildlife though their attitudes may not necessarily be
pro-conservation/pro-wildlife. To clarify, wild animals are often
killed for subsistence or sport in many parts of the world.
However, this definition refers to contextual killing, that is,
killing in response to wildlife-caused damage (to people and/or
property). While several factors affect an individual’s decision to
kill or harm wildlife, violence toward wildlife can be a result of
deeply ingrained cultural biases, negative stereotyping, and/or
structural or economic inequities (Chavez et al., 2005; Lucas,
Positive coexistence focuses on the cultural and structural
dimensions. It needs an environment in which people feel
emotionally and socially supported, and thus consider supporting
wildlife conservation despite the costs. According to Bhatia
et al.s 2019 typology, positive coexistence would include aspects
like appreciation (positive attitudes) and stewardship (positive
attitudes and behaviors) (Figure 1).
The idea behind proposing this theoretical dichotomy is to
illustrate that coexistence does not simply imply the absence of
intolerance but can be a state of positive associations with and
actions for wildlife. Often, the aim of conservation is to reduce
behavioral intolerance which can be achieved through legal or
moral means. It may be effective in reducing the anthropogenic
impact on wildlife which, in Galtung’s vocabulary, refers to
a reduction in direct violence. However, it may not always
translate to positive attitudes or behaviors – a goal that many
conservationists (would like to) strive for. Positive coexistence
can truly blossom in an environment that harbors socio-cultural,
financial and emotional support systems that help people cope
with losses and enable them to protect wildlife despite the odds.
In short, it calls for a structural and cultural paradigm shift
in which impacts are mitigated, and affected stakeholders feel
connected to wildlife at the same time.
A pertinent question to ask here is “coexistence for whom?” Like
peace, coexistence is contextual and has multiple interpretations.
For example, Galtung (1981) pointed out that peace theory
tends to be skewed in favor of the powerful and is used to
maintain status-quo in society. Schmid (1968) similarly criticized
peace research by pointing out that facilitating negative peace,
that is prohibiting violence, often means giving more power
to the powerful while ignoring the needs and motivations of
disenfranchised individuals or groups. Galtung’s work has been
criticized for not offering any criteria to assess and facilitate
equity, and for using the terms like “equality” and “justice”
interchangeably (Al-Abedine, 2017). These are valid criticisms of
his ideas and are relevant for coexistence research too.
In the field of biodiversity conservation, for example, one
tries to balance the needs of various human and non-human
stakeholders some of whom may have diametrically opposite
interests. How, then, can we come up with a unified idea of
coexistence that is mutually acceptable to most, if not all groups?
Moreover, is it even possible to transition to positive coexistence
which, like Galtung’s ideas, sounds all too utopian and nearly
impossible to achieve (Bönisch, 1981; Gur-Ze-ev, 2001)? To
add to it, we are not always well-versed with the nuances or
standard/appropriate definitions of the various terminologies
that we employ, and sometimes use them indiscriminately (e.g.,
human-wildlife conflict, tolerance, local communities, to name
a few).
How does one navigate these challenges and complexities all
the while attempting to facilitate and/or maintain coexistence?
The theoretical, ideological, and practical challenges of
applying the principles of peace research to our context
can understandably be overwhelming. However, I would argue
that this marriage can help reduce our efforts at reinventing
the wheel (indeed, peace, conflict, coexistence is not unique to
biodiversity conservation). Conservation practice requires us to
think more carefully about how we engage with the problem and
the efficacy of the various tools that we employ to deal with them.
Speaking of tools, Galtung defines peace using a mathematical
formula [Peace =(Equity ×Empathy)/(Trauma ×Conflict)],
which may seem strange at first. However, the formula can help
us consolidate the learnings. According to the formula, mutual
and equal benefit, and empathy for another’s pain can enhance
positive peace, whereas reconciling trauma and minimizing
violence can enhance negative peace. To negotiate an acceptable
version of peace, Galtung proposes a three-step approach which
can help understand the origin of destructive behaviors and result
in strategies to rectify them (Galtung, 2011).
The first stage is mapping where an external/disinterested
negotiator individually speaks to each stakeholder (group or
representative) and maps out the contours of the problem from
their perspective. At this stage, they could enquire about the
fears, hopes and aspirations of the stakeholder vis-à-vis the issue.
Empathetic, compassionate and open communication can enable
the group/representative to confide in the negotiator (Galtung,
2004). This stage involves determining what the goal of each
stakeholder looks like.
The next stage is to legitimize the goal with the help of the law,
human rights perspective and generally accepted ethics and social
Frontiers in Conservation Science | 2June 2021 | Volume 2 | Article 688307
Bhatia Two Sides of Human-Wildlife Coexistence
FIGURE 1 | Visual representation of human response to wildlife impacts. Manifested intolerance refers to negative attitudes and behaviors toward wildlife. Latent
intolerance comprises responses where attitudes are negative, but behaviors are not. Neutral refers to ambivalent attitudes and behaviors. Appreciation includes
responses where attitudes are positive, but without corresponding positive behaviors. Stewardship includes positive attitudes and behaviors [Source: Adapted from
Bhatia et al. (2019)].
norms. For example, is the goal legal – does it involve actions that
are legally prohibited? What are the human costs of pursuing the
goal? What are the costs to wildlife and domestic animals in our
case? These discussions can enable the negotiator to understand
what is at stake and if there is wiggle-room.
The third and final stage is referred to as bridging where
the negotiator assesses the compatibilities and incompatibilities
between the goals of the different stakeholders. Through
sustained dialogue and cooperation, they endeavor to find a
middle ground that may be mutually acceptable.
Indeed, all of this is easier in theory than in practice.
Further, as Pooley et al. (2020) pointed out, coexistence is a
dynamic state implying that the same stakeholder group may
feel differently toward wildlife in different situations/contexts.
Additionally, the agency of the animals is completely missing
from the discussion. The closest alternative to the voice of wild
animals is the voice of conservationists who consider themselves
capable of interpreting the needs of wildlife and wild places
(Redpath et al., 2015). Similarly, local communities who tend
livestock consider themselves legitimate representatives of their
animals. Galtung’s approach, some may argue, is more suited
to human communities in conflict. However, numerous studies
now suggest that human-wildlife conflict is essentially the conflict
between the goals and aspirations of various human groups
(Redpath et al., 2015,Peterson et al., 2010).
In recent times, toolkits like IUCN’s CEPA and Snow Leopard
Trust’s PARTNERS Principles (Hesselink et al., 2007; Mishra,
2016) have provided practitioners with the skills to engage
with communities. Such conservation toolkits combined with
learnings from an allied field can enhance our efforts in the
right direction. To me, the special feature of Galtung’s three-
step approach is the presence of an external negotiator. While
this may be a luxury in a field that is fraught with funding
issues and socio-political complexities, it is important to note
that conservationists trying to find a middle ground to resolve
wildlife-related conflicts may only be serving their own interests
and agendas. Such impressions can put stakeholders on the
defense, especially if the discussions assume a coercive tone,
not to mention that these discussions usually reflect vast
power asymmetries.
The negotiator, however, could be someone that most parties
respect and hold in high regard – a person without vested interest.
For example, it could be someone with experience in engaging
with communities and wildlife management. The proposed
solution(s), as Galtung insists, must strive to be constructive,
concrete and creative, whilst being mindful that coexistence is
a fragile and dynamic state that requires constant work. The
three steps can enable us to better understand conflicts, validate
different perspectives and design solutions that minimize or
resolve friction. The aim is to move from negative coexistence
to a positive one, which the three-step approach can facilitate. At
the very least, we could try to intersperse the two depending on
the context. In theory, positive coexistence is likely to last longer
and may be more resilient because it calls for a structural shift
that focuses on managing negative wildlife impacts, and enabling
positive associations between people and wildlife.
Frontiers in Conservation Science | 3June 2021 | Volume 2 | Article 688307
Bhatia Two Sides of Human-Wildlife Coexistence
There have been various theories of peace propagated by
different schools of thought (see Kant, 1795; Kelman, 1993;
Okoth, 2008). A full review is beyond the scope of this paper.
Galtung’s theories, however, have withstood the test of time and
are based on a deep understanding of the situation on-ground
(Lawler, 1989; Cravo, 2017).
The proposal presented here is an effort to learn from a field
faced with similar challenges. The most significant one being
the challenge of reconciling the needs of various stakeholders as
well as arriving at a shared vision of the landscape, its people
and the environment. The solutions that are devised within a
particular socio-economic and cultural setup, however, may not
generalizable though they may have common elements. It is thus
important to be mindful that conservation challenges (especially
conflict mitigation) are, in a sense, unique and require innovative
approaches to ensure the well-being of all parties, humans and
animals alike.
The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and
has approved it for publication.
I would like to thank Pankaj Sekhsaria for reviewing a draft of
this manuscript.
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Conflict of Interest: The author declares that the research was conducted in the
absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a
potential conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2021 Bhatia. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms
of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or
reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the
copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal
is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or
reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Frontiers in Conservation Science | 4June 2021 | Volume 2 | Article 688307
published: 23 June 2021
doi: 10.3389/fcosc.2021.683356
Frontiers in Conservation Science | 1June 2021 | Volume 2 | Article 683356
Edited by:
Darragh Hare,
University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Reviewed by:
Félix Landry Yuan,
The University of Hong Kong,
Hong Kong SAR, China
Ramesh Krishnamurthy,
Wildlife Institute of India, India
Ramya Nair
These authors have contributed
equally to this work and share first
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Human-Wildlife Dynamics,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Conservation Science
Received: 20 March 2021
Accepted: 24 May 2021
Published: 23 June 2021
Nair R, Dhee, Patil O, Surve N,
Andheria A, Linnell JDC and Athreya V
(2021) Sharing Spaces and
Entanglements With Big Cats: The
Warli and Their Waghoba in
Maharashtra, India.
Front. Conserv. Sci. 2:683356.
doi: 10.3389/fcosc.2021.683356
Sharing Spaces and Entanglements
With Big Cats: The Warli and Their
Waghoba in Maharashtra, India
Ramya Nair 1
*, Dhee 1†, Omkar Patil 1, Nikit Surve 1, Anish Andheria2, John D. C. Linnell 3, 4
and Vidya Athreya 1
1Wildlife Conservation Society-India, Bengaluru, India, 2Wildlife Conservation Trust, Mumbai, India, 3Department of Terrestrial
Biodiversity, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Trondheim, Norway, 4Department of Forestry and Wildlife
Management, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Koppang, Norway
Long histories of sharing space and resources have built complex, robust, and enduring
relationships between humans and wildlife in many communities across the world. In
order to understand what makes it possible for humans and wildlife to share space,
we have to look beyond the ecological and socio-economic study of damages caused
by human-wildlife conflict and explore the cultural and societal context within which
co-existence is embedded. We conducted an exploratory study on the institution of
Waghoba, a big cat deity worshiped by the Indigenous Warli community in Maharashtra,
India. Through our research, we found that the worship of Waghoba is highly prevalent,
with 150 shrines dedicated to this deity across our study site. We also learnt that the
Warlis believe in a reciprocal relationship, where Waghoba will protect them from the
negative impacts of sharing spaces with big cats if the people worship the deity and
conduct the required rituals, especially the annual festival of Waghbaras. We propose that
such relationships facilitate the sharing spaces between humans and leopards that live
in the landscape. The study also revealed the ways in which the range of institutions and
stakeholders in the landscape shape the institution of Waghoba and thereby contribute
to the human-leopard relationship in the landscape. This is relevant for present-day
wildlife conservation because such traditional institutions are likely to act as tolerance-
building mechanisms embedded within the local cosmology. Further, it is vital that the
dominant stakeholders outside of the Warli community (such as the Forest Department,
conservation biologists, and other non-Warli residents who interact with leopards) are
informed about and sensitive to these cultural representations because it is not just the
biological animal that the Warlis predominantly deal with.
Keywords: human-wildlife interactions, indigenous beliefs, social institution, India, carnivore, warli community,
sharing spaces, leopard
Human-wildlife conflict emerged as a field of study within conservation research and practice in
the 1990s and has since been developing (Woodroffe et al., 2005; Redpath et al., 2015; Pooley et al.,
2017; Bhatia et al., 2019). Research pertaining to the study of ecology, diet, geography, distribution
of attacks, and mitigation practices associated with the “conflictual” wildlife species dominated the
treatment of the issue, often centered in and around protected areas (Edgaonkar and Chellam,
2002; Andheria et al., 2007; Athreya et al., 2013, 2016; Kshettry et al., 2017). Over time, the field
Nair et al. The Social Institution of Waghoba
of study has expanded, not only geographically to look at
human-wildlife interactions in multi-use landscapes, cities, and
other non-protected areas (Athreya et al., 2013; Chapron et al.,
2014; Carter and Linnell, 2016; Landy, 2017; Miller et al., 2017;
Dhee et al., 2019), but also ideologically to include the study
of the numerous dimensions associated with human-wildlife
interactions (Ghosal et al., 2013; Aiyadurai, 2016; Crown and
Doubleday, 2017; Doubleday, 2017; Bhatia et al., 2019; Nijhawan
and Mihu, 2020).
There has progressively been a recognition that these
conflictual interactions are far more complex and constitute
only a portion of the multiple types of interactions that exist
between humans and wildlife (Kolipaka et al., 2015; Carter
and Linnell, 2016; Crown and Doubleday, 2017; Linnell et al.,
2020). Furthermore, there is also a steadily growing body of
research that seeks to understand the social, anthropological,
political, inter-institutional, cultural, psychological, and other
human factors that shape human-wildlife interactions (Redpath
et al., 2015; Landy, 2017; Pooley et al., 2017; Bhatia et al., 2019).
Even though the study of human-wildlife interactions has
been a relatively recent development within the conservation
literature, it is by no means a novel subject matter to the
innumerable societies across the world who have been sharing
space with animals for centuries (Ingold, 2000; Messmer, 2000;
Bhatia et al., 2019). Consequent to the long histories of cohabiting
landscapes with wildlife, all societies have attempted to make
sense of their interactions with other species and manage the
consequences that these interactions produce (Ghosal, 2013).
Societies across the world conceptualize nature and animals
in a multitude of ways (Descola, 1992; Gadgil et al., 1993;
Descola and Pálsson, 1996; Ingold, 2000; Goldman et al.,
2010; Jalais, 2014; Aiyadurai, 2016; Dhee et al., 2019) making
it imperative to understand them through their local reality,
context and worldview. In some communities, narratives and
knowledge surrounding human-wildlife interactions can also be
seen entwined into informal social institutions. For example,
in Dibang Valley the kinship ties of brotherhood and taboos
describing the ill consequence of killing a tiger contribute
significantly to the relationship between humans and tigers in
that landscape (see Aiyadurai, 2016; Nijhawan and Mihu, 2020).
The Warlis, an Indigenous community from North-western
Maharashtra, have, for centuries, shared spaces with big cats. This
landscape has been home to leopards (Panthera pardus fusca)
and historically even tigers (Panthera tigris tigris). The Warlis
worship a big cat deity called “Waghoba.” In this study, we
carried out an ethnographic inquiry that explores the emergent
themes in oral histories, narratives of worship, power structures,
and belief systems. Our aim was to understand narratives related
to Waghoba and the negotiation of shared spaces in relation to
big cats in multi-use landscapes i.e., a mosaic of agricultural,
industrial and forested landscapes. Social institutions can be
understood as an enduring set of ideas, beliefs and practices that
function to satisfy various human needs (Johnson, 2000). They
may be formal such as the state, prisons, schools or informal
institutions such as political ideology, cultural norms, belief
systems, etc., and form an interrelated system of social norms and
roles by people united for a common goal (Abercrombie et al.,
1994). Previously, other studies have established the link between
large cats and Waghoba in other parts of Maharashtra (Ghosal
and Kjosavik, 2015; Pimpale, 2015,Athreya et al., 2018). In this
study we considered not only the deity but the “social institution
of Waghoba” as the subject, exploring the multilayered and
interrelated features of Waghoba worship and people-leopard
relations including facets of religion, politics, and kinship.
Scholars in the past have described the Warlis as animists
(Save, 1945; Dandekar, 2005). However, there is growing
recognition in academia about the immense heterogeneity in
indigenous cosmologies across the world, and how they often
cannot be encapsulated into the pre-existing frameworks of
animism and totemism. Århem (2016) discusses the ways
in which South Asian animism is particularly distinct from
Amerindian animism, and the need to decolonize our perspective
in order to recognize the existence of various cosmologies.
Therefore, in an attempt to broaden the way we interpret and
understand the cosmologies we encounter, in this paper we have
chosen not to restrict ourselves to using pre-existing animistic
frameworks as the only way to understand Warli cosmology.
Study Site
Fieldwork for this study was conducted in both multi-use
landscapes and protected areas. These include hamlets and
villages in parts of the Mumbai Suburban (446 km²), Thane
(4,214 km²), and Palghar (5,344 km²) districts located toward
the north-west of Maharashtra, India (Maharashtra Government,
2018) (Figure 1). These regions encompass the northern hills
of the Western Ghats and Maharashtras western coastal plains
bordering the Arabian Sea.
The climate in these regions is tropical, humid, and warm.
These regions support both agricultural as well as small and
large-scale business industries such as textile, chemicals and steel.
Protected areas included within our study site are Sanjay Gandhi
National Park (103 km2), Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (85
km2), and Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary (320 km2) (Maharashtra
Forest Department, 2021). Mammalian species such as the
leopard, jungle cat (Felis chaus), spotted deer (Axis axis),
barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak), sambar (Rusa unicolor),
common langur (Semnopithecus entellus), and black-naped hare
(Lepus nigricollis) have been recorded here (Maharashtra Forest
Department, 2021).
Anecdotal evidence, government records, and media reports
indicate both the historical presence of tigers (with recent
sightings of an individual from 2003) and the current presence
of leopards in the landscape (Anonymous, 1882; Bhagat, 2010).
Records indicate that the Warli community have historically
been inhabitants of the presently identified regions of Mumbai
Suburban, Thane, and Palghar districts (Save, 1945). Our study
area was chosen based on the prior knowledge that both Warlis
and big cats are present in this region.
The Mahadeo Kolis, Malhar Kolis, Thakkers, and Dublas are
other smaller (population wise) indigenous groups in the vicinity
that also worship some deities of the Warli pantheon, including
Waghoba. However, for this study, we chose to focus on this
Frontiers in Conservation Science | 2June 2021 | Volume 2 | Article 683356