Human-wildlife conflict resolution in the USA

Traditionally the domain of wildlife biology and management, human-wildlife conflict is of interest and concern across a number of disciplines including conservation and wildlife biology, anthropology, and development. Consequently there is a diverse literature developing around various aspects of this subject, and the timely arrival of this volume by Conover provides a useful summary of much of the available literature, especially that pertaining to the US.

This book comprises a series of chapters that cover fundamental issues, rather than presenting a catalogue of different potential pest species and how to deal with them. The book opens with chapters looking at definitions of (and consequently expectations of) wildlife management programmes, the history of wildlife management in the US, threats to people's health and safety from wildlife, economic considerations in human-wildlife conflict management and environmental impacts. Having introduced these important aspects, the author provides comprehensive summaries of information on different conflict-resolution strategies, including reduction of wildlife populations by lethal and nonlethal means, and methods of changing problem animal behaviour. This could make for rather tedious reading but the author, very carefully, presents this applied information in the context of the theoretical framework of animal behaviour and population dynamics. Not only does this make for more interesting reading, but it also is a reminder that to develop effective conflict resolution strategies it is necessary, not only to understand how animals’ behaviour and biology contribute to a conflict situation, but also to be aware of the potential implications of any interventions for animals as individuals, as well as at the population level.

Human-wildlife conflict resolution strategies do not always focus specifically on the animals, but rather may concentrate on ways of changing the degree to which the contested resource is vulnerable to animals, or changing people's perceptions of, and thus expectations of, wildlife. Conover gives a useful summary of these additional approaches, highlighting the importance of recognizing that different stakeholders may hold very different views on particular issues, which need to be taken into account when trying to achieve resolution of a conflict situation. In the final chapter the author presents three case studies. These are used to illustrate the complex nature of human-wildlife conflict issues. They demonstrate the need for careful analysis of the situation prior to any intervention, and provide support for the idea that no single method is likely to work, particularly over a prolonged period of time; rather it is more effective to integrate a series of different methods that between them act to alleviate the problem.

This book has great strengths. It provides an extensive review of the available literature across many different aspects of human-wildlife conflict. The inclusion of behavioural ecology, biology, economics and a focus on the need to take into account stakeholders’ perceptions, attitudes and concerns, helps emphasize the value of examining human-wildlife conflict issues within a multidisciplinary framework. This provides a useful structure for considering human-wildlife conflict issues more generally, so potentially widening the scope of the book to areas outside of the US.

This book is certainly of value to those interested in human-wildlife conflict issues within the temperate, developed regions of the world. However, it is of more limited value to those concerned with such issues outside of these geographical and cultural regions. Economic, climatic and logistical problems in particular make it very difficult for subsistence farmers in the tropics to protect crops adequately against large, dangerous animals such as elephants, whilst terrestrial primates’ remarkable agility, dexterity and exceptional cognitive abilities make these perhaps some of the most difficult animals of all to deal with effectively. Certainly the general concept of using a variety of techniques against such animals is highly appropriate. However, because of economic, ecological, cultural, and faunal differences between temperate and tropical regions, many of the practical methods described in this book are likely to be inappropriate or ineffective solutions to some of the human-wildlife conflicts experienced by subsistence farmers in Africa and Asia.

Catherine M. Hill Department of Anthropology, Oxford Brookes University U.K.