Conflict with humans is one of the greatest threats to wild animals – WWF and UNEP report

August 8, 2021

The report shows that this is both a development and humanitarian issue as well as a concern about conservation, and threatens to diverge from Sustainable Development goals.

Hanoi, July 8 2021 – According to a report by WWF and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) released today, human-wildlife conflict is one of the major threats to the long-term survival of some iconic species in the world, ranging from wolves hunting cattle in Idaho, USA, to wild elephants roaming for food in the village in Vietnam, or a crocodile bit hundreds of people to death in Burundi.

Human-wildlife conflicts, which arise when both live in the same area, often cause people to kill wild animals in self-defense or revenge, resulting in the risk of the species becoming extinct.

The report, A future for All – the need for a harmonious coexistence between humans and wildlife, highlighted that the conflict has resulted in more than 75% of the world’s feral cat species being killed. This situation also occurs with many other terrestrial and marine carnivores such as polar bears, Mediterranean monk seals or large herbivores like elephants.

“Humans are witnessing unprecedented changes to the planet”, said Margaret Kinnaird, Director of International WWF’s Global Wildlife Conservation Program. “Global populations of wild species have decreased by an average of 68% since 1970. Human-wildlife conflict, along with other threats, has led to a dramatic decline in the populations of species that were once very crowded, while species that were once small are nearly on the edge of extinction. Unless we urgently take actions, this trend will only gradually worsen, damaging and in some cases, having irreversible impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity”.

The report was prepared by 155 experts from 40 organizations based in 27 countries.

Susan Gardner, UNEP Ecosystem Program Director, said: “The report raises the alarm about human-wildlife conflict and calls for national and international conservation programs to give essential attention to this matter”.

“The report calls for the use of measures that can identify underlying causes and potentials of the conflict, and simultaneously develop systemic solutions with affected communities – who should be actively and equally involved. As many examples in the report, it is possible and achievable for humans and wildlife to co-exist.

According to the report, human-wildlife conflict is both a development and humanitarian issue as well as a concern over conservation, affecting the income of farmers, breeders, traditional fishermen, and indigenous people, especially the poor. Conflicts also arise when humans and animals have to share the same water source. An inequality emerges when communities living with animals receive no compensation for the risk this coexistence poses.

In Vietnam, conflicts also occur when humans and wildlife live in close proximity. The case of elephants in Dak Lak is a typical example. Fortunately, in recent years, no human casualties have been recorded, but there have been at least two cases of baby elephants being injured by people illegally trapping wild animals. Jun, a 10-year-old male elephant was injured by stepping on a rope trap. After receiving treatment, Jun could not be released back into the wild and has been raised at the Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center for six years so far. Meanwhile, 116.35ha of crops, 5 temporary houses and hundreds of cashew and rubber trees were destroyed by wild elephants.

Despite its close association with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), human-wildlife conflict still receives insufficient attention from policy makers.

Maintaining the population growth of wild species and the well-being of ecosystems will help human societies survive, providing food and livelihoods for all. However, catastrophic impacts such as casualties, loss of property and livelihoods weigh heavily on communities living with wild species, often in developing countries with high biodiversity. This results in financial instability and affects the physical and mental health of these communities.

Ms. Kinnaird added: “If human-wildlife conflict is not satisfactorily resolved by the international community, WWF believes it will have a significantly negative impact on the likelihood to achieve a majority of our goals. If the world is to achieve the SDGs by 2030, human-wildlife conflict must be included in the SDGs implementation plan. This issue should also be central to the new strategic framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity.”

The report argues that human-wildlife conflict can not be completely eliminated, but can be minimized with integrated approaches and well-planned management, thereby helping humans and animals co-exist in harmony.

WWF Vietnam joined with Yok Don National Park (NP) and Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center (CC) to conduct a Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) assessment and develop a five-year HEC management strategy (2021-2025). WWF-Vietnam also supported the establishment and maintenance of a community-based group to mitigate elephant-human conflicts in Drang Phok village, Krong Na commune, Buon Don district. Officers from Yok Don NP, Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center and villagers from four of the worst affected communes have been trained to help reduce HEC.

The essential conditions for humans and wild elephants to co-exist harmoniously in Dak Lak are likely to be met. However, there are concerns about the safety of wild elephants since habitat loss still goes on. Meanwhile, elephants need a large habitat to live. Ending land use conversion in elephant corridors and restoring their habitats are essential for creating a safer environment for both humans and elephants.

This way of reducing human-wildlife conflict can create opportunities and benefits not only for biodiversity and affected communities, but also for society, sustainable development, production and the global economy in general.

DOWNLOAD: Report “A future for all: Human – Wildlife coexistence”

*Most of the SDGs are related to human-wildlife conflict, e.g. SDG #2: No more poverty. The connection to human-wildlife conflict: Wildlife damages food stocks, crops and livestock and exposes subsistence farmers to starvation.

**The Global Strategic Framework for Biodiversity beyond 2020 is expected to be adopted in October at the 15th meeting of the Conference (COP15). At the Conference, world leaders will sign a new commitment to protect biodiversity over the next 10 years.

Source: WWF Vietnam


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