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Human-wildlife Conflict
to coexistence

Human-wildlife conflict is a devastating and urgent problem for our ground-based projects, and one that is only getting worse as habitats are destroyed, and competition for land becomes more intense, meaning humans and wildlife increasingly come face to face.

Animals are naturally driven to defend their territory, their families, and food and water resources. In turn, it is understandable for us to want to protect our crops, our homes, our income and our lives, when we come into conflict with wildlife.  In these situations, some of the biggest threats these species face are pre-emptive and retaliatory killings.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

DSWF is working with conservation partners on the frontline to provide solutions that turn human-wildlife conflict into human-wildlife co-existence.

Theo Bromfield

We work with communities to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the wildlife they live alongside, but also to ensure they have a stake in this protection and that they will see the benefits, including through the provision of alternative income and livelihoods.

Game Rangers International
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Wildlife Trust of India
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

The devastating impact of human wildlife conflict in Zambia

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In Zambia, human-wildlife conflict results in significant loss of lives and livelihoods

Game Rangers International
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

In a single night of crop raiding by elephants, a subsistence farmer may lose his entire maize yield – his entire source of income for a year.  On the same night, his neighbour may lose three of her cattle to lions – her food security, her savings, her plough. Her young daughter may be taken by a crocodile when she is washing clothes on the riverbank. Her son may have his mokoro overturned by a hippo while he’s fishing and never be seen again. Living alongside wildlife is extremely dangerous.

Yet, despite the risks, despite most people knowing someone who has lost their life or livelihood to wildlife, with little alternative opportunities, they continue to farm, fish and live with the threat of conflict, and in doing so, develop a very low tolerance for wildlife. This can manifest in retaliation killings, in the withholding of information from law enforcement, and in the provision of accommodation and firearms to poachers.

The communities living on the border of Kafue National Park, where DSWF operates, are particularly hard hit by human-wildlife conflict.  From January to April, elephants are most likely to raid and ravage maize fields. Between March and December, fishermen risk encountering territorial bull hippos, known to overturn small boats and kill at random. And conflicts with carnivores can happen whenever livestock offers a tempting and easy alternative to dwindling natural prey.

In the past two years, we have seen a significant rise in human-carnivore conflict in the communities bordering Kafue National Park, with several hundred cattle being predated on by lions.  The local population are tribal pastoralists and live almost entirely hand-to-mouth. Their economic well-being revolves around livestock ownership, which are used for beef, milk, ploughing and transport.

All of this has a devastating impact on wildlife

In 2021, four of only 250 estimated lions remaining in Kafue National Park lost their lives, when farmers reacted to the spate of livestock killings.  With Zambia considered to be one of just nine countries world-wide estimated to have over 1,000 remaining wild lions, and with a 50% reduction in the global population recorded over the past 20 years, these four deaths represent a devastating loss to the species.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Craig Jones
Game Rangers International
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Coexistence takes collaboration

Our conservation partners work tirelessly to reduce the conflict through instigating preventative measures and offering communities advice and equipment. This can include chilli blocks for maize growers – which when burnt, create a putrid, thick smoke that has been proven to deter elephants. In turn, cattle farmers are provided noise makers and flashing lights to put off predators.

The project’s rangers also work closely with these pastoral herdsmen to protect their cattle and prevent further wildlife deaths. This can take the form of low-cost but effective measures ranging from stamping the rear of livestock with painted eyes – making carnivores think they’ve been seen, to erecting ‘zero-visibility’ kraals to protect herds at night.

Offering compassion and companionship to those affected by human-wildlife conflict can prevent their feelings of anguish, fear and utter despair from escalating into a retaliation killing.  DSWF’s empowers and equips a full time Human-Wildlife Coexistence Ranger to respond in-person to every reported incident. As well as spending time listening to those affected and acknowledging their losses, he provides critical support to bereaved families. Of the 62 human-wildlife conflict incidences he responded to in 2022, nine involved human fatalities. Without hesitation he stepped in to recover and transfer remains, provide welfare support, and assist with funeral costs and logistics. This is how we show the community that that it is not them versus the wildlife.

Marcus Westberg
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Supporting communities and protecting elephants, rhinos and tigers in India

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David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

The scale of human-wildlife conflict in India, with the nation’s rapidly growing human population increasingly coming into contact with its wild animals, can be hard to comprehend.

Artwork by Sophie Green
Nithila Baskaran
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

In one of the states in which DSWF operate- Assam – over 800 elephants and nearly 700 people have died because of it in the last decade alone.

Indians are increasingly coming into contact with large species such as rhino, tiger, and elephants, especially the latter two as their migratory patterns often lead them into villages.  All of these species require large habitats, so with the encroachment of human settlements and agriculture, conflict is inevitable.

DSWF funds several initiatives in India aimed at reducing human wildlife conflict.  Often this is through providing communities with vital equipment such as torches and GPS devices, which enable regular patrols that both monitor animals and discourage human encroachment.  Other projects we fund focus on measures to protect livestock and crops, providing compensation in the event of their loss, and emergency situations such as rescuing animals that have been caught in conflicts with local communities.

Other ways we are
working to prevent
human wildlife conflict

All of DSWF’s project on the ground have to deal with Human wildlife conflict in some shape or form, and all have their own methods to work with communities to help reduce it.

In Mongolia, we work with herder communities to protect their flocks from snow leopard predation through the encouragement of better herding practices and the development of predator-proof livestock corrals.  When livestock does get predated, communities are compensated by a pioneering livestock insurance scheme.  A positive view of snow leopards is further created amongst local people through awareness and education programs and a conservation-linked livelihood program, which funds local women to produce and sell handicrafts, boosting their income.

Uganda Conservation Foundation
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

In Zimbabwe, where we work to protect painted dogs, in and around Hwange National Park, Human wildlife conflict mostly occurs in cases of the dogs being caught in snares, the indiscriminate killers of the African bush.  By supporting extensive patrols in areas where snaring is known to be high, we are able to find and release dogs caught in snares before it is too late.  Communities however are also seeing the devastating impact of the brutal snares on the painted dog populations that they increasingly feel pride in and want to protect, thanks to our community awareness raising efforts and education program.  Communities are now starting to form their own anti-poaching patrols to remove snares and there has also been a profound difference in the community reaction when one of the dogs predates on livestock.  In the past the dogs would likely have been killed in retaliation, but now communities share updates and warnings with each other via WhatsApp and work together to chase the dogs away to safer areas.

The Pangolin Project
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

In Kenya, our conservation partners on the ground work to protect one of only two known giant pangolin populations in the country.  In this context, human wildlife conflict arises due to the subdivision of land. Individual landowners put up electric fences to demark their land and keep their livestock in, but this has a devastating impact on the pangolins who are frequently caught and electrocuted on the fences.  Our partners on the ground are working closely with communities to devise alternative ways to fence the land, including through the removal of the fences altogether or by developing new pangolin safe designs.  It is only because of the efforts of our project partners in the past few years to develop close and trusting relationships with the local communities that they are able to have constructive discussions and achieve local buy-in for solutions that will protect pangolins.

Donate now in support of human wildlife coexistence

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Reducing Consumer Demand

DSWF work in key markets for wildlife products to persuade people of the tragic consequences of their continued consumption and to debunk myths about the medicinal value of pangolin products.  We also share more positive messaging about pangolins, highlighting that if left alone in the wild, the animals are harmless and beneficial to ecosystems. Learn more.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Engaging Global Communities

All DSWF funded projects provide vital support to communities who live alongside wildlife.  It is crucial that they have a stake in protecting wildlife and benefit from it. Our projects provide education programs, community benefits and jobs, help improve gender equality, and restore eco-systems, all of which make life better for the people living in the communities we work in. Find out more.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Rescue, Rehabilitation & Release

DSWF has been supporting the Wildlife Programme in Zambia (previously known as the Elephant Orphanage Project) since 2007. The programme rescues elephants from the wild who have been orphaned, rehabilitates them, and then gradually releases them back into the wild. Find out more.

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