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H U M A N - W I L D L I F E   C O N F L I C T

human-wildlife coexistence with elephant
Author: Josh Robertson 👨‍💻 

What is human-wildlife conflict?

Funnily enough, the topic of human-wildlife conflict (HWC) covers the issues arising when people come into conflict with wildlife. But it’s no laughing matter. Such conflicts are hugely diverse and complex, but typically arise from competition for resources; for example, elephants raiding farmer’s crops or lions attacking livestock. It's actually better to refer to HWC as human-wildlife interactions, as this more accurately defines these situations, which can be either negative or positive, and the word conflict can cause more harm than it's worth - but for the sake of simplicity for this article I'll continue to refer to them as HWC. 


HWC is a huge threat to many wildlife species today, especially iconic well-known species: big cats (lion, jaguar, leopard, tiger etc.), elephants, crocodiles, sharks, and bears. They're unbearable situations! And I'm not lion! Apologies. HWC's often lead to huge reductions in wildlife, and in some cases even lead to loss of human life and animals being completely wiped out from an area. This vid helps explain the situation.

What are the costs of human-wildlife conflict?

As you can probably guess from the name, the problem doesn’t stop at the threat to wildlife either. The costs to people from HWC's are also huge. These costs range from obvious things like attacks on people and loss of livestock/crops, to things which are hard to measure (intangible costs) such as fear and opportunity costs; for example, a child may not be able to go to school because they have to protect their parent’s livestock/crops.

human-wildlief conflict with elephants in India
hman-wildlife conflict with leopards in India
📸 Nishant Srinivasaiah
📸 BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images

How can we solve human-wildlife conflict?

Trying to solve HWC situations is often very difficult, because there's no silver bullet solution. Each conflict is unique because they're shaped by cultural, political and economic factors that are often poorly understood. However, knowing this help us to create projects that mitigate conflict! Below is a great example from Chester Zoo, showing how conservation scientists and organisations are moving towards resolving these complex conflicts.

📽️  Chester Zoo 

So overall, HWC is a huge issue which negatively affects both people and wildlife greatly worldwide. As is the case with most problems in conservation, resolving these issues requires approaches that utilise peoples experience from different disciplines. We need politicians, economists, biologists, and social scientists to help us consider all the factors affecting the conflict and the opinions of all those involved - even if you think their views are irrelephant (🐘). For example, in areas in India leopards are considered to be gods, pests, killers, and harmless nomads by 4 different groups of people living in one area. The difficulty in creating solutions for a HWC such as this is pleasing all 4 different groups of  people. So how do we solve such conflicts?

Want to learn more? Check these out!

Photo Story

Sean Gallagher tells a great visual story looking into aspects of human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka:

Organisations Involved in HWC

Walking For Lions was founded by Marnus Roodbol and aims to help reduce human-lion conflict in Botswana:

Interesting Videos

A video that has been around for a while but one that shows the potential danger of human wildlife conflict: 

'Leopards: 21st Century Cats' is an incredible film about the varying relationships people have with Leopards across India. Amazing story and definitely worth a watch:

Interesting Articles & Reports

Retaliation attacks a huge threat to snow leopards:

Scientific Papers & Books

The Avengers of the human-wildlife conflict community of scientists produced an interdisciplinary review of current and future approaches to improving human-predator relations:;jsessionid=C85D07707FF833E1A3FBDB5925DCEEFA.f03t02

Amy Dickman (2010) Complexities of conflict: the importance of considering social factors for effectively resolving human–wildlife conflict: 

Rosie Woodroffe, Simon Thirgood & Alan Rabinowitz (2005) People and Wildlife, Conflict Or Co-existence?: 

Redpath et al (2013) Understanding and managing conservation conflicts :

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