A multispecies assessment of wildlife impacts on local community livelihoods

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© 2020 The Authors. Conservation Biology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Conservation Biology Conflicts between the interests of agriculture and wildlife conservation are a major threat to biodiversity and human well-being globally. Addressing such conflicts requires a thorough understanding of the impacts associated with living alongside protected wildlife. Despite this, most studies reporting on human–wildlife impacts and the strategies used to mitigate them focus on a single species, thus oversimplifying often complex systems of human–wildlife interactions. We sought to characterize the spatiotemporal patterns of impacts by multiple co-occurring species on agricultural livelihoods in the eastern Okavango Delta Panhandle in northern Botswana through the use of a database of 3264 wildlife-incident reports recorded from 2009 to 2015 by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Eight species (African elephants [Loxodonta africana], hippopotamuses [Hippopotamus amphibious], lions [Panthera leo], cheetah [Acinonyx jubatus], African wild dogs [Lycaon pictus], hyenas [Crocuta crocuta], leopards [Panthera pardus], and crocodiles [Crocodylus niloticus]) appeared on incident reports, of which 56.5% were attributed to elephants. Most species were associated with only 1 type of damage (i.e., either crop damage or livestock loss). Carnivores were primarily implicated in incident reports related to livestock loss, particularly toward the end of the dry season (May–October). In contrast, herbivores were associated with crop-loss incidents during the wet season (November–April). Our results illustrate how local communities can face distinct livelihood challenges from different species at different times of the year. Such a multispecies assessment has important implications for the design of conservation interventions aimed at addressing the costs of living with wildlife and thereby mitigation of the underlying conservation conflict. Our spatiotemporal, multispecies approach is widely applicable to other regions where sustainable and long-term solutions to conservation conflicts are needed for local communities and biodiversity.