Man Animal Conflict Essay Ideas

Human–wildlife conflict refers to the interaction between wild animals and people and the resultant negative impact on people or their resources, or wild animals or their habitat. It occurs when growing human populations overlap with established wildlife territory, creating reduction of resources or life to some people and/or wild animals. Conflict between people and animals is one of the main threats to the continued survival of many species in different parts of the world, and is also a significant threat to local human populations. If solutions to conflicts are not adequate, local support for conservation also declines. Human-wildlife conflict is a serious obstacle to wildlife conservation worldwide and is becoming more prevalent as human populations increase, development expands, the global climate changes and other human and environmental factors put people and wildlife in greater direct competition for a shrinking resource base.

Improving our responses to human-wildlife conflict requires greater consultation not only among wildlife professionals and between their organizations, but also with economic and social development organizations, land use planners, agribusiness, and other key decision makers. Successful responses to conservation conflicts frequently require individual professionals to reach outside their own disciplines for needed tools, skills and perspectives. Interdisciplinary collaboration, as well as collaboration between sectors, is critical to improving the understanding of underlying causes needed to shift the emphasis from reactive mitigation of conflict to proactive prevention strategies.

The Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration (HWCC) is pioneering efforts to facilitate collaborative learning among diverse partners so that we may improve our collective ability to address the root causes of conservation conflicts. HWCC is unique in that it provides a neutral global forum upon which to convene the individuals, institutions and sectors working on, or affected by, conflict in conservation. Through this forum and our collaborative work, we will help wildlife professionals and key decision makers shift our efforts from a reactive mitigation of human-wildlife conflict to a proactive, prevention of all conservation conflicts.

The Creating Co-existence workshop at the 5th Annual World Parks Congress defined human-wildlife conflict as :“Human-wildlife conflict occurs when the needs and behavior of wildlife impact negatively on the goals of humans or when the goals of humans negatively impact the needs of wildlife.” Nature of human-wildlife conflicts

As human population extends to wild animal habitats, natural wildlife territory is displaced. The population density of wildlife and humans overlaps increasing their interaction thus resulting in increased physical conflict. Byproducts of human existence offer un-natural opportunity for wildlife in the form of food and shelter, resulting in increased interference and potentially destructive threat for both man and animals.

Various forms of human–wildlife conflict occur with various negative results. Some of these are: Animal deaths
Crop damage
Damage to property
Destruction of habitat
Injuries to people
Injuries to wildlife
Livestock depredation
Loss of human life, such as by Tiger attack
Information on man-wildlife conflicts in Kerala during the period 1983-93 were collected from the office records of the Divisional Forest Offices and by Visiting areas from where man-wildlife conflicts were reported. Cattle lifting was mainly due to Panther (Panthera pardus) Tiger (Panthera tigris) and Wild Dog (Cuon alpinus). Eighty nine cattle lifting cases were reported during the period. Thirty one human deaths and 64 injury cases were also reported, mostly due to Elephants. Out of the total compensation claimed for cattle lifting only 20% was disbursed and only 14% were disbursed for human casualties. Electric fences using energizers may solve the problem temporarily.

Resettling of villagers from inside the forest areas is also advisable. The southern state of Karnataka has got some of the most pristine forests in Western Ghats spanning the districts of North Kanara, Dharwad, Belgaum, Shimoga, Udupi, Mangalore, Chikmagalur, Hassan, Madikeri, Mysore and Chamrajnagar. The forests in these districts are quite rich in wild life as can be expected, the most notable wildlife in these forests being Elephants, Tigers, Leopards among other animals. In the drier tracts of these and other districts where the topography is mostly plains with scattered rocky outcrops of hills the wildlife consists of Bear, Black bucks and Leopards. The difference is only in the extent of damages and the number of lives lost.

The problem of Man – Elephant conflict is more severe in the districts of Hassan and Madikeri where large herds of elephants can be seen roaming and marauding the farms especially in or near the forest areas damaging the valuable agricultural crops. At times there have been loss of human lives which only accentuates the problem taking this conflict to an entirely new level. Naturally people can tolerate the loss of agricultural crops but not the loss of their family members. But then who is responsible for all this? It is we who have intruded into their territory, converting the forests into agricultural farms, growing crops and inviting the elephants to our doorsteps to come and have their stomach fill. Its we who have fragmented their habitat by making roads, dams and canals.

We have honeycombed their habitat by our so called developmental activities eating into their homelands and this appetite of ours for their areas is only increasing day by day with the bulging human population. The elephants in these areas seem to have a very peculiar habit. First they have their stomach fill. After that they roam around in search of arrack which is usually being distilled in local bhatties. The arrack or the distil waste gives them a nice kick and these drunken elephants are responsible for the loss of human lives. The tools employed by the forest department like bursting of crackers, gunshots or fire torches are too primitive to stop or scare away the marauding pack of drunken elephants.

The Man-Leopard conflict is more visible in the transition zone between dry plain lands and the green hilly areas. In the Chikmagalur district it is more a problem in the dry taluqa of Kadur particularly bordering villages of Kadur and Chikmagalur taluqa where the dry tract ends. Kadur is the place which earned a bad name for it about 10 years back. It was here where large number of panthers had to be shot and killed by employing and bringing so called sharp shooters from all over the state in search of an illusive so called man-eater panther. The end result of all this hunting spree was that every day and night several panthers were shot and brought to the post mortem table, post mortem was carried out and the killed panther was declared innocent as no human remains could be detected inside till finally some human hair remnants were detected in one and then only this shooting spree came to a halt.

It is debatable whether it was really required to kill such a large number of panthers which is an endangered species but perhaps the department had no means to identify the errant panther and hence large number of panthers had to be killed in search of that illusive wayward one. Moreover at times one is driven by the urge to be seen as trying his best. Probably this urge opened the floodgates and gradually people took the law into their own hands thinking that why to wait for the forest department when they can themselves teach panthers a lesson. Same happened some time back. A family of a mother panther and its two grown up cubs was seen in the vicinity of a village. They hunted a calf and ate it partially before they were chased away by the villagers. Once they left, the carcass of the calf was nicely poisoned. When the mother and the cub returned unsuspectingly next day, they consumed the remains and in the process died themselves.

Leopards by nature tend to stray into the habitations in search of their kill. Their natural prey is becoming rare in the forests and the omnipresent cattle and dogs in the vicinity of the villages on the periphery of forest brings them in close conflict of the human beings. In some other areas also few panthers have had to lose their lives being caught in the snares. These snares are fixed in the barbed wire fence of coffee estates, not necessarily by the estate owners but at times by their labour in order to catch wild boars or smaller animals. However it is the panthers and Sambars who have had to pay the price with their lives for their adventure in to the estates.

The Man- Tiger conflicts are by and large restricted to the high forests and the coffee estates in the vicinity of forests in Chikmagalur district. These conflicts also arise due to depredation by tigers on the cattle or getting entangled in the snares fixed in the fencings of the estates. Few tigers have been killed due to such snares.

In Chikmagalur, Hassan, Kodagu and other Western Ghat districts Coffee plantations are an integral part of the topography. The conditions available in the coffee estates make them very close to look like forest. Presence of cattle in such areas makes them ideal hunting grounds for the tigers and leopards bringing them in direct conflict with the villagers. Moreover there are large number of authorized and unauthorized muzzle loading guns available making it very difficult for the wild life to survive.

Primary reason for all these conflicts is fragmentation of the wild habitat. Whereas few patches have been brought under the Conservation network by declaring them as National Parks or Sanctuaries, about 85-90% of the forest areas are still outside this network. While there can be no doubt that establishing this network has contributed significantly to wildlife conservation. But real problem is that even these networks are also fragmented. Whereas total concentration in these parks and sanctuaries is on wildlife protection making the conditions ideal for wildlife, but what about the wildlife staying in forest areas outside these networks. Wildlife knows no boundaries.

Creation of ideal conditions in sanctuaries has helped wildlife to multiply rapidly but where is the additional habitat required to take care of the additional population of animals, which tries to flow over to the adjoining areas only to get killed. This is particularly so with regard to the wild animals having territorial tendencies. There is need to have a continuous conservation network with sufficient area and resources to take care of the progeny. Right now almost no effort is being made to take up wild life related management works outside the parks and sanctuaries. The lands outside the parks and sanctuaries (even inside also) are constantly under threat of encroachment. Honeycombing of the forestlands has already reached extreme.

The tools employed by the government in reducing the Man and Wildlife Conflicts are highly insufficient and hence not producing desired results. If we think that paying a few hundred or thousands Rupees to a person as compensation for crop damages by elephants or for a cattle killed by a leopard or tiger would save our wildlife from getting poisoned or shot, then it is nothing but our shortsightedness.

Even this so-called wildlife compensation is paid to him after making innumerable trips to the concerned office. The farmer has to forego his earnings for each day he has to visit the office, he has to pay from his pocket for the bus charge and has to undergo physical strain ……. And what he gets is just few hundred rupees. Such hardships discourage him and in the process he gets encouraged to take the law into his own hands and to settle scores with his tormentor- the wildlife. There are only losers on both the sides.

The Forest officials are also at times not acting in tandem. There is no coordination among the adjoining units. Particularly in case of elephant herds movements between the adjoining units it can be seen. Everybody wants to drive away the herds to another adjoining unit without giving any thought. It only complicates the problems.

Need of the hour is to have a stock of the real problem. And then only solutions can be found. We tend to take each problem in a routine manner. There is a tendency to leave the things to lower subordinates. The powers that be have to take everybody into confidence, discuss the issue threadbare and then have to take a conscious decision. A conscious policy decision need not be essentially sweet and liked by all but it may herald a new era where people and wildlife both can coexist beneficially.

How would you react to an elephant in your backyard or a bear in your garden? As human populations expand and natural habitats shrink, people and animals are increasingly coming into conflict over living space and food.

From baboons in Namibia attacking young cattle, to greater one-horned rhinos in Nepal destroying crops, to orangutans in oil palm plantations, to European bears and wolves killing livestock – the problem is universal, affects rich and poor, and is bad news for all concerned.

The impacts are often huge.

People lose their crops, livestock, property, and sometimes their lives. The animals, many of which are already threatened or endangered, are often killed in retaliation or to ‘prevent’ future conflicts.

What are the reason for conflict between man and animals?

The main reason is that man, unlike other animals change the environment around him instead of adjusting himself according to the environment. By doing this he disturbes other animals, with knowing and without knowing .Thus he creates a conflict.

Human beings think that they have a right to control everything (a scientifically given or a god given right) That is because the power of thought he posseses. And because he is the most intelligent being on earth.

But unlike human beings animals do not posses a power of thought, thus they with out thinking or knowing block the path of humans. Even a cat stealing a fish from a kitchen is a conflict, yet the cat only hope to fulfill its need of food not to steal it away.

Another reason is increasing of development of physical things made by human beings. The human population is high because he knoes the way to heal, thus the need of land is high both for cultivation and living.Many animals have lost their home lands so they go serching for lands in human habitat areas. In many countries it is a big issue because animals such as Elephants do not only barge into villages but destroy crops and even lives on their way.

The final big issue is environment pollution and global warming. And this causes some animals especially those who cannot maintain body temperature according to need (such as fish) have become extinct and are becoming extinct.This may look as a mear happening of the pollution and global warming. How come an animal in Africa who’ve become extinct effect someone in America or Asia?

Yet it does effect because as you know Planet earth is a system.

Potential solutions to these conflicts include electric fencing, land use planning, community-based natural resource management (CBNRM), compensation, payment for environmental services, ecotourism, wildlife friendly products, or other field solutions.[3] In efforts to reduce human-wildlife conflict, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has partnered with a number of organizations to provide solutions around the globe. Their solutions are tailored to the community and species involved. For example, in Mozambique, communities started to grow more chili pepper plants after making the discovery that elephants dislike and avoid plants containing capsaicin. This creative and effective method prevents elephants from trampling community farmers’ fields as well as protects the species.

Rearticulating the myth of human–wildlife conflict


  • M. Nils Peterson,

    1. Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences Program, Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7646, USA
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  • Jessie L. Birckhead,

    1. Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences Program, Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7646, USA
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  • Kirsten Leong,

    1. Human Dimensions of Biological Resource Management Biological Resource Management Division, National Park Service, Fort Collins, CO, USA
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  • Markus J. Peterson,

    1. Department of Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
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  • Tarla Rai Peterson

    1. Department of Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
    2. Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala 75007, Sweden
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Markus Nils Peterson, North Carolina State University, Box 7646, Raleigh, NC 27695-7646, USA. Tel: 919-515-7588; fax: 919-515-5110. E-mail:


Human–wildlife conflict has emerged as the central vocabulary for cases requiring balance between resource demands of humans and wildlife. This phrase is problematic because, given traditional definitions of conflict, it positions wildlife as conscious human antagonists. We used content analysis of wildlife conservation publications and professional meeting presentations to explore the use of the phrase, human–wildlife conflict, and compared competing models explaining its usage. Of the 422 publications and presentations using human–wildlife conflict, only 1 reflected a traditional definition of conflict, >95% referred to reports of animal damage to entities human care about, and <4% referred to human–human conflict. Usage of human–wildlife conflict was related to species type (herbivores with human food, carnivores with human safety, meso-mammals with property), development level of the nation where the study occurred (less developed nations with human food and more developed nations with human safety and property damage), and whether the study occurred on private lands or protected areas (protected areas with human–human conflict and other areas with property damage). We argue that the phrase, human–wildlife conflict, is detrimental to coexistence between humans and wildlife, and suggest comic reframing to facilitate a more productive interpretation of human–wildlife relationships.


Understanding the changing social contexts for conflict between conservation and human welfare is central to biodiversity conservation (Czech et al. 1998; Chan et al. 2007; Peterson et al. 2008). Conflicts associated with biodiversity conservation reflect material as well as socially constructed realities (Guyer & Richards 1996; Schlosser 2006). Considerable research documents the material conditions where promoting human welfare while simultaneously conserving biodiversity appear incompatible (Kerr & Currie 1995; Forester & Machlis 1996; Czech et al. 2000), but little research addresses how social constructions of those material conditions shape biodiversity conservation (Herda-Rapp & Goedeke 2005; Chan et al. 2007; Leong 2010). Scientists who hope to influence conservation policy must understand those constructions (Ludwig 2001).

Although all human experience is grounded in material reality, materiality alone is insufficient to motivate social action (Burke [1950]1969; Peterson 1997). People's past experiences, beliefs, and values frame their perceptions (Dingwall 2002; Lewicki et al. 2003). These frames influence what is important and shape people's interpretation of material reality. One practical way to identify and even shape future frames is to examine how they are instantiated through language. In this study, we focused on rhetorical framing, or language used to provoke identification and cooperation among humans. Rhetoric influences human motivation and action by shaping vocabularies. These vocabularies form terministic screens, wherein individual words (terms) interact to emphasize some aspects of reality, while deemphasizing others. The terministic screens people use enable them to consider and discuss the importance, meaning, and demands (action called for) of their experience. Terministic screens, therefore, direct attention by emphasizing or deemphasizing different elements of reality. As we communicate, human perceptions become implications of the terministic screen through which they are articulated (Burke 1966). Terministic screens shape the way society reacts to environmental challenges by constraining possibilities. For example, in the United States, the jobs versus environment terministic screen pitted endangered species conservation against human welfare during the Reagan and first Bush administrations (Goodstein 1999; Peterson et al. 2004). Changing that terministic screen to environmental protection as precondition for healthy economy (fulfilled through approaches such as habitat conservation plans) during the Clinton administration encouraged simultaneous promotion of both endangered species conservation and job growth. These approaches allowed individuals, communities, and companies to harm endangered species if they promised sufficient mitigation to offset the damage. Although the conservation benefits of this terministic shift are debatable, a major shift occurred nonetheless.

Terministic screens become problematic in biodiversity conservation contexts when they frame the needs of humans and wildlife as arising from conscious antagonism. The terministic screen formed by the phrase human–wildlife conflict represents such a case because it emphasizes conscious antagonism between wildlife and humans (Conover 2002; Graham et al. 2005). Cases where resource demands of humans and wildlife must be balanced could be described as human–wildlife coexistence (Madden 2004), human–wildlife competition (Matthiopoulos et al. 2008), or human–human conflict (Marshall et al. 2007). The human–wildlife conflict terministic screen, however, is used to frame some of the most high-profile wildlife conservation cases in the world (e.g., whales, seals, sea turtles, tigers, wolves, bears, elephants; Sukumar 1991; Dublin & Hoare 2004; Omondi et al. 2004; Patterson et al. 2004). Concepts encompassed by the phrase, human–wildlife conflict, have inspired books and international collaborations, started centers, and generally shaped research addressing interactions between humans and wildlife. The Jack H. Berryman Institute for Wildlife Damage Management, for example, changed its web tagline from “Wildlife Damage Management” to “Resolving Human–Wildlife Conflicts” in 2007. This change coincided with the inaugural issue of its academic journal, Human–Wildlife Conflicts.

Conflict is a well developed, if interdisciplinary, concept. Definitions generally converge around “expressed disagreements among people who see incompatible goals and potential interference in achieving these goals” (Pearce & Littlejohn 1997; Peterson et al. 2002:947; Pruitt & Kim 2004). Environmental conflicts implicate consciousness and social interaction, are intensely political, and are always linked to power relationships and values (Peterson & Franks 2005; Raik et al. 2008). Recent definitions of biodiversity conflict reflect these well-documented dimensions of conflict in part by suggesting that interests of two or more parties must clash and at least one of the parties must attempt to assert its interests at the expense of the other (Bennett et al. 2001; Marshall et al. 2007). This definition captures the essential idea that conflict emerges out of actors’ interpretation of a situation instead of simply competition for limited resources (Peterson et al. 2002; Yasmi et al. 2006). This version of conflict excludes most wildlife species as parties to conflict because few if any wild species could be construed as being simultaneously aware of their own goals, aware of human goals, and purposefully seeking to undermine human goal-seeking capacity.

In this article we use content analysis of journal articles, reports, books, and conference presentations drawn from conservation biology venues to analyze how the phrase, human–wildlife conflict frames perceptions of interactions between humans and wildlife. We then determine how the species involved and study area locations relate to those constructions. We conclude by suggesting ways conservation biologists can address challenges associated with human–wildlife coexistence without sacrificing the rhetorically powerful language of conflict.


We used a grounded theory approach to guide content analysis because we were attempting to generate theory from data (Corbin & Strauss 2008). We chose to investigate the use and meaning of human–wildlife conflict because of its mixed usage in articles we read and proposals we reviewed. We sensed an inconsistency in the usage of human–wildlife conflict that ranged from descriptions of people being afraid of wildlife (Kaltenborn et al. 2006) to attacks and counter-attacks between wildlife and people (Jackson & Wangchuk 2004; Bagchi & Mishra 2006). We assumed the most carefully designed and well-described studies addressing human–wildlife conflict would be found in published literature, and that studies most indicative of future trends would be found in papers from professional meetings related to wildlife conservation. Content analysis began with a review of 10 published journal articles to ensure that abstracts were sufficiently representative of the papers to allow the use of abstracts as the source of material for analysis. Although some articles used multiple interpretations of human–wildlife conflict, none contradicted the primary interpretation identified in the abstract.

We then searched for journal articles, books, and reports (hereafter publications) that used combinations of the words “human”, “wildlife”, and “conflict” in their titles, key words, and/or abstracts using Web of Science, Wildlife and Ecology Studies Worldwide, and Google Scholar (November 2008). This search yielded 1,348 publications. We limited our analysis to 306 of these publications that used the phrase, human–wildlife conflict, or a species-specific alternative (e.g., human–bear conflict). We used 1983 as a cutoff point given the paucity of older human–wildlife conflict publications. We also searched available conference presentation abstracts from 2004 to 2008 for The Society for Conservation Biology (2005–2008), The Wildlife Society (2004–2008), and the Human Dimensions of Wildlife conference (2008). We analyzed the conference presentation abstracts for the same key words as the publications. A total of 117 conference presentation abstracts used the phrase, human–wildlife conflict, or a species-specific version of the phrase.

J. Birckhead and N. Peterson used thematic content analysis to develop categories for human–wildlife conflict (Peterson et al. 1994; Strauss & Corbin 1997). The content analysis entailed analyzing the titles and abstracts word-by-word to develop provisional concepts for how human–wildlife conflict was used. We reached saturation (no new categories emerged) after developing 15 categories. These categories then were collapsed into nine (seven types of animal damage, human–human conflict, and actual human–wildlife conflict; Table 1). During this process, we used the constant comparison technique to raise questions regarding categories, and used memos to document and analyze ideas about categories as they emerged during thematic analysis (Corbin & Strauss 2008). The development status of nations, whether or not the study was conducted in or directly adjacent to a protected area, and the types of species associated with studies emerged as categories explaining the use of the term, human–wildlife conflict. Species categories ultimately included two types of charismatic megafauna (herbivores and carnivores), meso-mammals (e.g., Castor canadensis, Trichosurus vulpecula), and birds.

Animal damage–crops7624.82925.0
Animal damage–livestock7624.82622.2
Animal damage–human safety4213.72219.0
Animal damage–property damage3110.11916.4
Animal damage–fisheries17 5.6 2 1.7
Human–human conflict11 3.6 1 0.9
Animal damage–transportation10 3.3 5 4.3
Animal damage–gardens 5 1.6 00
Human–wildlife conflict 1 0.3 00

As with most grounded theory research, our results and methods were intertwined (Strauss & Corbin 1997). Concepts of human–wildlife conflict usage that emerged during thematic analysis were used to generate definitions for each category that could be used to train coders and assess intercoder reliability (Krippendorff 2004). To assess reliability of the thematic analysis, an undergraduate worker recoded all the publications and presentations. Intercoder reliability was high for coding the types of human–wildlife conflict in publications (κ= 0.941, P < 0.001, n= 306) and conference presentation abstracts (κ= 0.894, P < 0.001, n= 117). We used the three categories obtained through thematic analysis (species type, development level of the nation where the study occurred, and whether the study occurred in a protected area) to formulate competing nominal logistic regression models (JMP 8.0.1, SAS Institute, Cary, NC, USA) that could account for four categories considered human–wildlife conflict in both publications and presentations (Table 2). We compared these models within an information-theoretic approach to model selection (Burnham & Anderson 2002). Development level of the nation where each study occurred was quantified using the Human Development Index value (0 to 1) for each nation as reported in the 2009 United Nations Development Programme Report ( Some papers (n= 37) and presentations (n= 22) were conducted at a continental or global scale and were not assigned a Human Development Index value. We developed competing models to explain usage of human–wildlife conflict using each of the three variables singly, in pairs, collectively, and with interactions. We included three interactions: (1) species type and Human Development Index value, (2) species type and whether the study occurred in a protected area, and (3) Human Development Index value and whether the study occurred in a protected area. We used Akaike's information criterion corrected for small sample size (AICc) to compare models and calculated the associated Akaike weights for each model [wi; the probability that the current (ith) model is the best-approximating model among those considered].

Publications (n)(47)(104)(26)(34)(27)(113)(123)(81)(146)
 Safety 8.526.911.55.97.417.119.421.817.5
 Property 6.4 2.961.517.6 3.7 0.926.9 2.618.2
 Human–human 2.1 1.9 3.8 8.8 3.7 4.5 3.7 7.7 1.5
Presentations (n)(21)(41)(7)(1)(31)(0)(42)(24)(50)
 Property 8.319.571.4100 3.2NA38.116.728.0
 Human–human 8.30000NA2.402.0


Human–wildlife conflict usage in publications (journal articles [n= 277, 90.5%], books [n= 16, 5.2%], reports [n= 13, 4.2%]) typically referred to animal damage (Table 1). Of all publications and conference presentations using the term, human–wildlife conflict, we coded one as actual human–wildlife conflict (Warne & Jones 2003). In that paper, magpies (Cracticus tibicen) repeatedly attacked specific humans that were seen as threats, and humans retaliated. The authors found “all intruding cyclists and mail deliverers were attacked, magpies did not attack all pedestrian intruders, suggesting possible discrimination within this category” (Warne & Jones 2003:265). In conference presentation abstracts, human–wildlife conflict was typically used to describe animal damage (Table 1).

When human–wildlife conflict usage referred to wildlife damaging consuming crops or livestock, we coded the document as animal damage–crops and animal damage–livestock, respectively (Table 1). These categories combined damages suffered by both subsistence and commercial producers, and included indirect effects where wildlife consumed a resource (e.g., water) used in crop or livestock production. “Human–elephant conflict, in particular the damage caused by elephants to smallholder crops, is a major challenge to the conservation of African elephant” (Graham & Ochieng 2008:76) represents expressions of human–wildlife conflict coded as animal damage–crops. “Therefore, wolf–human conflicts are common, chiefly because of wolf depredation on livestock” (Kumar & Rahmani 1997:466) represents animal damage–livestock.

When authors referred to wildlife consuming fish that humans wanted to use in aquaculture or in open water settings (e.g., commercial, subsistence, and recreational fishing) as human–wildlife conflict, we coded it animal damage–fisheries (Table 1). “Conflict between humans and cormorants occur because of depredation of fish from nets and weirs, consumption of trout and migrating salmon smelts” (Milton et al. 1995:91) represents articles coded as animal damage–fisheries. Wildlife damage to crops, livestock, and fisheries were grouped as a food-related category for quantitative analysis (Table 2).

When human–wildlife conflict usage alluded to wildlife frightening, injuring, killing, or transmitting infectious agents to humans, we coded the document animal damage–human safety (Tables 1 and 2). “When humans enter sloth bear habitat or sloth bears enter crop fields, conflicts occur that cause numerous human casualties” (Rajpurohit & Krausman 2000:393) typifies usage of human–wildlife conflict coded as animal damage–human safety.

When authors referred to wildlife damaging nonagricultural property as human–wildlife conflict we coded it as animal damage–property damage (Table 1). This category primarily included wildlife nesting on buildings and/or damaging physical structures. “A simpler way to limit bat–human conflicts may be to modify new and existing buildings to discourage colonies from initially taking up residence” (Williams & Brittingham 1997:359) typifies usage of human–wildlife conflict coded animal damage–property damage. We coded usage of human–wildlife conflict alluding to wildlife damaging vehicles (e.g., airplanes) or interfering with their use as animal damage–transportation (Table 1). “These concurrent activities have resulted in increasing human–wildlife conflicts, most visibly deer–vehicle collisions” (Sullivan & Messmer 2003:163) typifies usage of human–wildlife conflict coded animal damage–transportation. When human–wildlife conflict usage alluded to wildlife raiding gardens that were not used by humans for subsistence purposes, we coded the document as animal damage–gardens (Table 1). “Several human–wildlife conflicts were identified … bandicoots were disliked by a small minority (3%) of residents owing to the holes they dig in lawns and gardens” (FitzGibbon & Jones 2006:233) typifies usage of human–wildlife conflict coded animal damage–gardens. The property, transportation, and garden categories were grouped in a property category for quantitative analysis (Table 2).

When human–wildlife conflict referred to human disagreements over wildlife management decisions (e.g., preferred responses to conservation mandates), we coded the document as human–human conflict (Tables 1 and 2). “The growing popularity of caving and closing down caves for bat conservation has brought about human–wildlife conflicts” (Thorne 1990) typified human–wildlife conflict usage we coded human–human conflict. Finally, we created a review category for documents that discussed multiple interpretations of human–wildlife conflict (Table 1).

Based on our thematic analysis, it appeared that wildlife species type, the development status of the nation where the study occurred, and whether the study was conducted on private lands versus in/adjacent to protected areas were relevant to what authors described as a human–wildlife conflict. For publications, the probability that the model including all direct effects (species type, the Human Development Index value for the nation where the study occurred, and whether or not the study was conducted in/adjacent to a protected area) was the best approximating model among those considered was >99.9% (wi > 0.999, Nagelkerke's R2= 0.560). This model was sufficiently dominant that considering competing models was unnecessary (Burnham & Anderson 2002:75–79). For conference presentations, the best approximating model (1) included species type and Human Development Index values (wi= 0.864, Nagelkerke's R2= 0.658). The next best approximating models—including (2) Human Development Index values (wi= 0.098, Nagelkerke's R2= 0.612) and (3) all direct effects—received considerably less support (wi= 0.030, Nagelkerke's R2= 0.686). Specifically, the evidence ratios (w1/wj) for models 2 and 3 were 8.8 and 28.4, indicating model 1 was approximately 9 and 28 times more likely to be the best approximating model as compared to models 2 and 3, respectively.

Human–wildlife conflict usage reflecting wildlife damaging human food resources was most prevalent for charismatic mega-herbivores (83%), but charismatic mega-carnivores (68%) and birds (68%) also were cited frequently in publications (Table 2). Meso-mammals were the only group primarily implicated in property damage (62%). Charismatic mega-carnivores were implicated more than twice as often in publications involving threats to human safety than any other species group. Patterns were similar for presentations at professional meetings, with the exception of meso-mammals being portrayed as threats to human safety more frequently (Table 2).

Overall, focusing on damage to food resources was most prevalent in research conducted in less developed nations, whereas threats to human safety and property damage were more common themes in research conducted in developed nations. Wildlife damaging human food resources was most prevalent in publications where research areas were in less developed nations (85%), and progressively less prevalent when in developing (78%) and developed (50%) nations (Table 2). Human safety and property damage were focal topics more often in publications focused on developed nations than those focused on less developed nations. Equating human–wildlife conflict with nonfood property damage was relatively common in research conducted in developed nations (27%), but rare for research in developing (1%) or less developed nations (4%). A similar pattern occurred in conference presentations (Table 2).

Human–wildlife conflict usage in publications reporting research conducted in or immediately adjacent to protected areas tended to reflect human–human conflict more commonly (8%) than similar research on private lands (2%; Table 2). Conversely, a property damage usage of human–wildlife conflict was more prevalent for research from private lands (18%) than for research from protected areas (3%).


Actual conflict between wildlife and humans was rarely described in publications or presentations ostensibly addressing human–wildlife conflict (Table 1). Most cases referred to as human–wildlife conflict would be more accurately described as perceptions among people that wildlife threaten something they care about (e.g., health, safety, food, property; Conover 2002). Direct conflict of any type was rare in cases referred to as human–wildlife conflict, and when it did exist, it reflected human–human conflicts regarding how wildlife should be managed.

This study supports the assertion that human–human conflict is the primary type of conflict being labeled as human–wildlife conflict (Tables 1 and 2). Conflicts tended to occur among humans deciding how best to address potential wildlife threats to human property, health, safety, or development objectives. Wildlife in less developed countries has no more impetus to engage in conflict with humans over food than wildlife in developed nations. The driving factors relate to the human side of the equation (e.g., how people choose—or are pressured by other social institutions—to produce, store, and distribute food relative to wildlife populations). People living subsistence lifestyles are likely to experience greater impacts from, and thus be more concerned about, wildlife damaging their crops than are those who purchase food in plastic wrappers in supermarkets. Likewise, wildlife in more developed nations have no more reason to threaten human safety or nonfood property than do wildlife in less developed nations. Again, people's concerns about such threats stem from the human side of the equation. Finally, the predominant species type addressed in human–wildlife conflict studies reflects the trend of conflating human issues with human–wildlife conflict. The human–wildlife conflict studies targeting threats to human food production focused on charismatic megafauna, rather than the species doing most crop damage. Wildlife species of little interest to many conservation biologists (e.g., rodents, starlings) cause most of the $8.3 billion in wildlife damage expenses in urban areas and $4.5 billion in agricultural losses in the United States (Conover 2002; Pimentel 2002).

Researchers constructed the human–wildlife conflict terministic screen as an alternative to animal damage management and other ways of describing problematic interactions between humans and wildlife. Although the human–wildlife conflict terministic screen may have more cachet than animal damage management—and thus may appear likely to increase the stature of the subdiscipline, improve funding opportunities, and create a sense of urgency—this representation also constrains the way problems are defined and limits the array of potential solutions available. Solutions to animal damage problems, for example, differ from methods used to resolve human–human conflicts.

Animal damage can refer to anything wildlife do that any human dislikes (Conover 2002). When animal damage is portrayed as human–wildlife conflict, it may perpetuate the anthropomorphic view that animals possess humanlike consciousness, including values, interests, and intents—that they want what is ours, thus representing wild animals as human antagonists. For example, Dublin & Hoare (2004:271) state “human–elephant conflict … involves not only agricultural losses, but also a complex social dimension in the most affected sector, subsistence farming.” This terministic screen pits elephants against subsistence farmers, but the “complex social dimension” refers to human, not elephant, society. Neither party to this so-called human–wildlife conflict created the social context making elephants a threat to human food supplies (e.g., locally increased elephant numbers, encroachment between agricultural and conservation lands), and neither party holds the power to change those contexts.

Predictable but unintended consequences can accompany framing biodiversity conservation challenges as human–wildlife conflict. A human–wildlife conflict terministic screen places wildlife, entities that cannot represent themselves in the political sphere, in the role of combatants against people. If they accept the role of combatants, it makes sense for people to direct anger, frustration, and even attacks at wildlife rather than their human adversaries with potentially grave conservation consequences (Peterson et al. 2002; Brook et al. 2003). Conflicts labeled as human–wildlife conflict associated with the U.S. Endangered Species Act exemplify mislabeled human–human conflicts. Without the Act, there would be little animosity toward a host of rather benign wild species, such as the spotted owl (Strix occidentalis) or the Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium), whose existence constrains human development projects only by virtue of their listing under the Act (Freudenburg et al. 1998; Peterson et al. 2002). Individuals from these species were hung in effigy by angry citizens in part because the human–wildlife conflict terministic screen conflated them with conscious human antagonists. These species cannot survive without protection, but humans, not the species themselves, are demanding the protection. Further, labeling human–human conflicts as human–wildlife conflicts may limit opportunities for conflict resolution by diverting attention from addressing conflicts within human political systems until they escalate to self-reinforcing levels that are much more difficult to resolve (Peterson et al. 2002).

Although most conservation researchers recognize that humans are part of, rather than apart from, nature, the human–wildlife conflict terministic screen threatens to attenuate that awareness. Labeling conflict between humans regarding biodiversity conservation and animal damage as human–wildlife conflict dichotomizes humans and nature, framing wildlife as something that threatens human existence, rather than contributing to human welfare. Yet shifting toward a terministic screen that directs attention toward the potential for coexistence between all species, while still recognizing the existence of multiple, sometimes contradictory needs, is difficult.

Given that the central concern identified in this study is the terministic screen used for environmental conflict, we suggest that rhetoric may also supply a corrective. Burke ([1937]1984; Peterson 1997) argues that human societies use both tragic and comic approaches to correct dysfunctional terministic screens. The more common, tragic, approach rejects and seeks to destroy the entire social reality engendered by the offending terministic screen. The comic corrective, however, recognizes terministic screens as products of fallible humans that simultaneously exceed and distort the intents of their creators. Because a comic corrective recognizes every perspective is an experiment, it should facilitate adaptive change. Recognizing that the internal contradictions associated with the label, human–wildlife conflict, have the unintended consequence of implicating wildlife in consciously antagonistic relations with humans opens the door to alternative ways of framing conflicts over biodiversity conservation. We suggest conservation researchers and practitioners utilize the comic corrective to pun the internal contradictions associated with human–wildlife conflict and experiment with developing a terministic screen from the label, human–wildlife coexistence.

Two recent examples highlight how conservation practitioners have used the comic corrective to begin shifting the human–wildlife conflict terministic screen. Francine Madden, executive director of the Human–Wildlife Conflict Collaboration, has helped develop a training program ( that focuses on improving participants’ ability to identify and address human–human conflicts that have been masked by the human–wildlife conflict label. This approach promotes a shift toward human–wildlife coexistence by highlighting the ambiguity inherent to relations among humans, and how those relationships influence interaction between humans and wildlife. Similarly, Mike Conover and Bruce Leopold, at the Jack H. Berryman Institute (A National Institute for Resolving Human–Wildlife Conflicts), provided constructive feedback during earlier drafts of this article, and played a role in the 2010 name change of the journal Human–Wildlife Conflicts to Human–Wildlife Interactions. The name change illustrates how a label can redirect attention to mutuality between humans and wildlife, while still addressing cases where humans and wildlife compete for limited resources.

Although nature is not inherently a rhetorical text, human actions and political institutions associated with it do function rhetorically. We argue that conservation scientists must attend to both verbal and material systems. Applying a comic corrective to the ways environmental conflict is rhetorically framed encourages us to reconsider our engagement in the political process; to remind anyone who will listen that we threaten our own species when we threaten the existence of others.

Editor: Dr. Sandra Jonker


We thank J. Garrow, anonymous reviewers, H. Bondell, and B. Collier for valuable constructive criticism. B. Leopold and M. Conover at the Jack H. Berryman Institute provided insight into the history of wildlife damage management and human–wildlife conflict. North Carolina State University, the Texas A&M University System, and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences supported this project. The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government.


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Publication History

  • Issue online:
  • Version of record online:
  • Received: 29 July 2009; accepted 20 January 2010.


  • Animal damage;
  • biodiversity conservation;
  • discourse;
  • environmental policy;
  • grounded theory;
  • human–wildlife conflict;
  • rhetoric;
  • social construction;
  • thematic analysis


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