Mitigating Human-Wildlife Conflict: social and ecological dimensions of snow leopard-livestock conflict in Shey Phoksundo National Park
MetadataShow full item record
Human-wildlife conflict is one of the world’s leading conservation challenges. Carnivores are often found at the forefront of these conflicts with humans, and livestock depredation as a leading cause of conflict between large carnivores and humans across the world. Such is the case for the snow leopard and remote communities in western Nepal. Livestock depredation threatens both the livelihood of these communities and the conservation of the snow leopard. Shey Phoksundo National Park provides the ideal case study to examine this conflict as little research has been conducted on the locations of livestock depredation in this region nor the attitude of local communities to this large carnivore. This research has two objectives. The first is to use a spatial lens to investigate the hotspots of livestock depredation by snow leopards and identify the most significant drivers of these locations. The second is to identify the attitudes of local communities towards snow leopards and highlight any underlying drivers of these attitudes. Fieldwork for this research involved five weeks of trekking in Shey Phoksundo National Park. Quantitative surveys (n = 105) were used to identify the characteristics and locations of livestock depredation. Through a novel approach of predation risk modelling in Maxent, I examined the relative risk of livestock depredation to identify the conflict hotspots where livestock are most vulnerable to snow leopard depredation. In addition, I explored the underlying landscape features that contribute to this increased vulnerability. The landscape features that had the greatest contribution to the relative risk of livestock depredation from most to least are distance to grassland, distance to large rivers, distance to village, elevation, distance to roads, distance to cliffs, and distance to rock land cover. The final predation risk model proved robust and followed the best practices of modern Maxent applications by addressing common critiques of this modelling process. The quantitative surveys were also designed to investigate the attitudes of local communities towards the snow leopard. Attitude was investigated as a whole and determined that there is an overall positive attitude towards snow leopards. However, when split into two distinct geographical regions of lower and upper Dolpo, upper Dolpo proved to hold more negative attitudes. Next, I explored the potential determinants of attitude towards snow leopards through the development of a composite attitude score and applying general linear models to a variety of hypothesized explanatory variables. The top performing model indicated that a combination of gender, years of education, geographic region, number of external supports received, and perception of the change in external supports provided by organizations, best explained attitude towards snow leopards. This thesis then presents the current state of conflict resolution efforts taking place in Shey Phoksundo National Park. It provides a review of the strategies in place at time of data collection which included four predator proof night corrals funded by WWF Nepal and a government relief scheme to financially compensate livestock owners when their livestock are killed by snow leopards. Additional conflict resolution efforts are highlighted such as tourism, animal husbandry strategies, and cultural beliefs. Qualitative notes captured during the surveys are used to highlight current community perceptions of each of these resolution efforts. Following this discussion, this thesis then looks towards the future of conflict resolution in Shey Phoksundo National Park. Guided by the quantitative and qualitative insights gained from this research and analysis, I conclude by offering potential management implications that discuss how to strengthen current conflict resolution efforts, as well as provide insights on the potential benefits for the implementation of new strategies. This thesis demonstrates the importance of approaching human-wildlife conflict with an interdisciplinary lens, as it can offer a more holistic understanding of pathways to coexistence.
Cite this version of the work
Caitlin Laidlaw (2023). Mitigating Human-Wildlife Conflict: social and ecological dimensions of snow leopard-livestock conflict in Shey Phoksundo National Park. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/19358