Human-wildlife interactions play an important role in shaping perceptions and conservation paradigms and the livelihoods in villages neighbouring protected areas. These interactions also determine the future survival of the wildlife in the face of increasing pressure due to high human population increase characterising most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Most rural people in sub-Saharan Africa are agropastoral, combining small scale farming with animal husbandry, or they are purely agropastoralists or farming who relies on natural resources for sustenance.
The negative impacts from wildlife to humans may include crop damage, attacking and killing livestock and humans, competing for game species or acting as diseases reservoirs. Humans may affect wildlife through a wide range of lethal methods such as shooting, poisoning, trapping or snaring, habitat modification, encroachment or diseases exchange between wildlife and livestock.
Illegal hunting using traditional weapons is wide spread in communities surrounding areas rich of wildlife where in some countries in Africa (i.e. Liberia) up to 75% meat protein is derived from wildlife. The main factors attributing to high consumption of bushmeat is local availability, easy catch-ability (wire snares, pitfall traps), affordability and the consequent household savings.
This thesis evaluates the conflicts between human and wildlife in the human-wildlife interface using the western Serengeti as a case study. The first part of the thesis focuses on the conflict related to utilization of natural resources and livestock depredation whereas the second part focuses on the dietary contribution of bushmeat to local people, bushmeat experience and utilization. Local people living close to protected areas are rational when it comes to the illegal utilization of natural resources because they consider the benefits and costimplications. The bushmeat hunters, especially, know in advance which areas in the protected areas are profitable at the same time consider the cost of being arrested and the distance they need to walk to the profitable areas. While illegal hunting can take place far in the park, livestock keepers avoid grazing inside the park because they know the consequences (penalties and fines) of utilizing the pasture inside the protected areas illegally.
The local people living close to protected areas consume more meat meals during the period when the wildebeest are in the village proximities than when the herds are far in the southern plains. This further proves the rationality of illegal bushmeat hunters when planning for hunting trips (the benefits versus cost). In contrast, the fish meals in the villages located close to protected areas but far from Lake Victoria decrease with influx of migratory herbivores, which suggest that fish and meat complement each other when the distance from the sources fluctuates. This was proved true when test-persons from villages close, intermediate and distant from the nearest national park boundary were given pieces of meat in a combination of wild ungulates and beef to rank the meat and species recognition according to the perceived taste. While the test-persons from distant villages preferred beef to all, the test-person from villages close to national park boundary prefer topi and those in the intermediate villages prefer impala. This suggests long term experience with beef to distant test-persons as no other source of meat is locally available in the area other than livestock meat and fish.
Wild carnivores are considered to be responsible for livestock losses in the villages surrounding the protected areas. The results from the current study in the villages surrounding the western Serengeti show that among the wild carnivores reported to kill livestock, 97.7% of all reported claims was spotted hyena, being responsible for 98.2%.
Spotted hyenas are nocturnal animals capable of commuting up to 80 km from their territory areas and are the most numerous large carnivore species in the Serengeti ecosystem, mainly targeting goats and sheep. To evaluate the level of conflicts between carnivores and human on livestock depredation, enumeration of livestock loss causes was conducted for subsequent comparison. In all villages, diseases were responsible for major loss of livestock.
Based on the findings the current study recommends better education on wildlife conservation, livestock husbandry practices and extension. A change in wildlife policy in favour of compensation would reduce the retaliatory killing of carnivores in the villages. Livestock keepers should improve the night holding enclosures to reduce livestock depredation by nocturnal predators. The findings recommend further study on the alternative sources of meat protein to local communities living close to protected areas. Last but not least, I recommend a special conservation attention to resident herbivore population close to village proximities.