Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE

A survey of livestock losses caused by Asiatic wild dogs, leopards and tigers, and of the impact of predation on the livelihood of farmers in Bhutan

Om N. Katel A E , Saran Pradhan A B and Dietrich Schmidt-Vogt C D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A College of Natural Resources, Royal University of Bhutan, Lobesa, Punakha, Bhutan.

B Wildlife Conservation Division, Department of Forests and Park Services, Thimphu, Bhutan.

C Centre for Mountain Ecosystem Studies, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, China.

D World Agroforestry Centre, East and Central Asia Region, Kunming, China.

E Corresponding author. Email: om@cnr.edu.bt

Wildlife Research 41(4) 300-310 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR14013
Submitted: 10 June 2014  Accepted: 12 September 2014   Published: 3 December 2014

Abstract

Context: Human–wildlife conflict is a serious impediment to conservation efforts worldwide. This is also true for Bhutan, where dholes or wild dogs (Cuon alpinus), leopards and tigers constitute a menace to the livestock of farmers. Livestock losses as a result depredation by wild animals is a major cause of conflict with farmers, threatening their livelihoods, and causing a negative attitude that can lead to retaliatory killing of wildlife.

Aims: To survey farmers and document their livestock losses, as well as estimate the value of livestock losses and the causes of predation.

Methods: We conducted a questionnaire survey of 147 farming households in three zones of the Toebesa subdistrict of Punakha, Bhutan. Respondents provided information on their farming activities and household income, as well as on predation losses of cattle, goats, pigs, chickens, cats and dogs caused by dholes, tigers and leopards between 2006 and 2010. Additional data on livestock populations and losses were obtained from the Renewable Natural Resources Census at the subdistrict.

Key Results: The results showed that dholes kill more livestock than do common leopards and tigers, the two other known livestock predators in the study area. The annual average number of livestock killed by dholes was 0.19 per household, which is ~2% of the total household income and ~11% of income derived from livestock. Annual income from livestock contributes 21% to the total annual revenues of farmers in the study area. The practice of allowing cattle to freely range, unguarded, in the forest was identified as the primary factor causing high livestock losses to dholes.

Conclusions: Dholes are the principal predator in the study area and have a significant negative impact on farmers’ livelihoods through loss of income. Our findings that livestock depredation by dholes was significantly less inside the villages and on farmed plots than in the forests showed that the problem can be addressed by improved husbandry practices.

Implications: To reduce livestock depredation by dholes, incentives or strategies should be investigated for encouraging farmers to let their livestock graze inside and around villages, which includes stall feeding and tethering, and to cooperatively shepherd them in the forests during the day.

Additional keywords: cattle breeds, dhole conservation, husbandry, livestock depredation.


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