Depredation loss drives human–wildlife conflict perception in the Trans-Himalayas

Communities in and around protected areas are exposed to a higher level of human-wildlife interactions. The conservation practice with persistently adverse local livelihood outcomes can potentially aggravate such interactions leading to conflict. In our study, we examined how perceptions of HWC have formed in a protected area of the Trans-Himalayas whose conservation program collides with a centuries-long tradition of transhumance pastoralism. To examine determinants of depredation and how conflict perception has developed there, along with the socioeconomic and ecological interactions underlying those trends, we collected data using household surveys, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions. We employed Poisson-logit maximum-likelihood hurdle, binary logit, and multinomial ordered logit regressions in order to explore the determinants of annual livestock depredation, predator attacks on the shed, and household-level perceptions of HWC, respectively. Depredation and encounters with wildlife were the principal causes of perceived HWC, and depredation caused an average household-level loss of US $422.5, up to 23.28% of annual income in some households. Predators’ attacks on high-quality sheds were relatively infrequent but more common in areas with perceived habitat degradation. Social customs, pastoral practices, and the present compensation mechanism were identified as being antithetical to conflict reduction and sustainable pastureland management. Further analysis revealed that a diversity of livelihoods, however, lowered conflict perception formation. The identified socio-ecological factors will continue to increase depredation, exacerbate perceived HWC, and degrade pastureland unless local conservation authorities take appropriate remedial measures

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