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Using social network methodological approach to better understand human–wildlife interactions. Pătru-Stupariu I, Nita A, Mustăţea M, Huzui-Stoiculescu A, Fürst C.Land Use Policy. 2020 Dec

Abstract

Human-wildlife interactions (HWI) are present in areas where wild animals and humans compete for limited space, sometimes resulting in potentially harmful conflicts on both sides. The upper Prahova Valley within the central Carpathian range of Romania represents an area where interactions between humans and wildlife can still be found, but potentially conflicting due to the presence of both large intact natural habitats and increasing human pressure over the environment. In our study, we hypothesize that an adequate understanding of the HWI problem involves analyses on landscape pattern, natural or human induced triggering factors, and local stakeholders’ perception of the phenomenon including the measures they consider suitable for optimizing their interactions with wild animals. Therefore, the goal of our paper was to analyse the characteristics of the HWI phenomenon in the upper Prahova Valley, based on exploring the local stakeholders’ perspective. The study methodology consists of three steps: (i) applying 450 questionnaires to local stakeholders in order to extract HWI data; (ii) detecting the interconnection between various types of HWI and the perception of local people, using statistical and network approaches; and (iii) develop a set of recommendations which are applicable at both, local and regional decisional level in order to decrease the negative impact of HWI, enhance wildlife conservation strategies and promote a sustainable interactions with humans and mitigate potential conflicts that occur between humans and wildlife. The results indicate that the brown bear, wild boar and red fox were constantly increasing in HWI after 1990, while interactions with Eurasian wolf, stone marten, European polecat, roe deer and mountain viper were usually scarcer. The brown bear and wild boar were the prior species involved in conflict interactions with humans, such as the destruction of fences, orchards, or gardens. The bear was the only wildlife responsible for non-fatal human attacks. Locals consider the lack of wildlife food supply by the forest staff and the deficient forest management practices after 1990 to be the main triggering factors of these negative HWI. They perceive that the interactions with these animals pose a high risk to human security. Our results stand as a strong argument for a complex management system concerning the HWI phenomenon which adapts upper-level policies and governance decisions to both local stakeholder’s needs and wildlife management objectives to be achieved in order to attain a favorable conservation status.

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