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

Living with predators: a focus on the issues of human–crocodile conflict within the lower Zambezi valley

Kevin M. Wallace A C , Alison J. Leslie B and Tim Coulson C

A Imperial College London, Department of Ecology and Evolution, Silwood Park, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 7PY, United Kingdom.

B University of Stellenbosch, Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Faculty of Agrisciences, P/Bag X1, Matieland 7600, South Africa.

C Corresponding author. Email: k.wallace08@imperial.ac.uk

Wildlife Research 38(8) 747-755 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR11083
Submitted: 2 May 2011  Accepted: 30 October 2011   Published: 9 December 2011

Abstract

Context: Human–wildlife conflict is a global problem and increasing worldwide as people and wildlife compete for limited resources. Conflict between people and crocodiles, especially in Africa, is recognised as a serious problem. The people of the Chiawa Game Management Area are heavily dependent on the Zambezi River for several resources from potable water and irrigating fields to a source of food (subsistence and small-scale commercial fishing).

Aims: To assess the spatial and temporal scale of human–crocodile conflict (HCC) and identify associated factors, with a view to recommending mitigation measures.

Methods: A questionnaire survey and Zambia Wildlife Authority data were utilised to estimate the scale of HCC.

Key results: Between 2000 and 2009, there were 98 crocodile attacks on people, 62.2% were fatal. Most of the attacks occurred while canoe fishing (57.1%) and collecting water (29.6%). Crocodiles were disliked and seen as a ‘problem’ by the majority of the populace. Even though crocodiles are a charismatic mega-fauna species, being employed within the tourism industry had only a minor positive effect on people’s attitudes. The area is an important location for crocodile egg and adult harvesting, although the local population gains no financial benefit. An increase in the number of boreholes in the villages was suggested by the local people as the primary mitigation measure, as well as the removal of crocodiles by various means.

Conclusions: Although people displayed an understanding of the risks of crocodile attack, very few actually employed mitigation techniques or utilised protective barriers when at the river. Increased water-access points (and their maintenance) in the villages would reduce people’s dependency on the river. The negative attitude towards crocodiles is an issue that has to be addressed to allow successful implementation of long-term conservation strategies.

Implications: Understanding local people’s attitudes towards wildlife is an important aspect within any conservation management plan.

Additional keywords:: attack, attitudes, management, mitigation.


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