Understanding the root causes of human-wildlife conflicts for improving biodiversity conservation in protected areas (DAAD Prime 2019-2021)

Biodiversity conservation is receiving increasing attention, e.g. in the form of an increase in numbers and coverage of protected areas (PAs). Furthermore, many countries have signed the Convention on Biological Diversity to promote sustainable community conservation, recognizing the rights of people and addressing poverty alleviation. Despite these efforts, habitat fragmentation, overexploitation (e.g. poaching), invasive species and climate change continue to accelerate species extinctions. PA’s objectives are increasingly in conflict with local people’s activities, and thus create a negative attitude towards conservation in general and certain species. These ‘conflicts’ often appear in the form of human-human (armed conflict between rangers vs. poachers) or human-wildlife conflicts (herders vs. large carnivores). Many conservation projects follow a top-down approach, seeking to change human behavior by enforcement of laws to reduce poaching or by adopting schemes to offset damage on people’s property, but these rules are often ineffective and rather escalate conflicts. Unfortunately there has only been scant empirical evidence for underlying assumptions of conflicts, especially in regard to socioeconomic-ecological contexts. It is important to understand the key factors changing decision-makers’ compliance on rules within social constructs (attitude, subjective norms and perceptions). In this project, we apply the theory of planned behavior offered by social-psychological science by integration with individual-based modelling (a bottom-up approach) from the ecological sciences which provides an opportunity to the understanding of individual behavior in conservation. This work has been developed to identify the root causes and mechanisms of conservation conflicts which is essential to find better mitigation pathways for conflicts and transform biodiversity conflict outcomes in PA systems.

Participating Researchers
Dr. Mahmood Soofi (grant holder and principal investigator), Prof. Dr. Stephen Redpath (University of Aberdeen, host), Prof. Dr. Matthias Waltert (Host)