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Citation Information

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Doctor of Philosophy
Title The effects of human-wildlife conflict on conservation and development: a case study of Volcanoes National Park, northern Rwanda
Author(s)
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
Abstract
Rising global population pressure and associated increases in demands for natural resources have
resulted in heightened pressure on areas containing valued biodiversity. Efforts to assist the
development of marginalised communities, however, often contravene measures aimed at the
sole conservation of these areas. As such, tension often exists between the aims of conservation
and development, preventing equal gains in the two. Inflaming this tension is the interaction
between economically marginalised communities and protected fauna, which can result in
human-wildlife conflict (HWC) of varying forms, including disease transmission, livestock
depredation, crop loss and property damage. As humans can be seen as the common
denominator of HWC, social and political considerations must be made at both proximal and
distal levels: HWC is not merely a quantifiable ecological problem. This study has focussed on one
form of HWC, crop raiding, and the constraints imposed by it on conservation and human
development efforts, using a forested protected area in tropical Africa as case study.
Volcanoes National Park (VNP), in northern Rwanda was chosen as the centre-point of a case
study to analyse in depth the effects of HWC on conservation and development. The location of
VNP within the Albertine Rift of eastern central Africa and its inclusion of a string of high altitude
volcanoes have resulted in extensive and largely endemic biodiversity, some of which has
substantial economic value through nature-based tourism, such as the mountain gorilla (Gorilla
beringei beringei). VNP also constitutes part of a protected area spanning the three nations of
Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which together form a potentially
unstable constellation of conservation sites. Further, population densities in Rwanda are thought
to be the highest in mainland Africa, with particularly high levels adjacent to VNP. This study has
investigated the form, level, extent and determinants of HWC on the margins of VNP, its effects
on conservation and tourism and the mitigation measures in place to minimise adverse impacts.
Given the ecological, social and political drivers and consequences of HWC, and the difficulty in
assessing the ecological conditions within VNP that may also be factors, no single method was
adopted to investigate this case study. Instead, a mix of qualitative and quantitative investigative
tools constituted the methodology of the current study, including preliminary interviews with key
stakeholders, focus groups and administered surveys with residents farming land near VNP,
quantitative monitoring of crop raiding events across an entire year and a boundary survey of
mitigation efforts in place. Major drivers of crop raiding were identified through re-aggregation
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and triangulation of qualitative data, while spatial analysis of quantitative data revealed spatial
variability in its extent and magnitude.
Though crop raiding by forest-dwelling animals was the predominant manifestation of HWC
around VNP and was perceived as a significant livelihood restriction by residents living near the
park, crop raiding was only one of several factors adversely impacting livelihoods around VNP.
Other factors included land shortage and agricultural restrictions. The intensity of HWC was
spatially clustered along the length of VNP boundary. Several determinants of the extent and
magnitude of HWC were identified, including the species of wild animal, the crop grown, the
season planted and the proximity to VNP. Furthermore, a lack of agricultural control and the
intervention of private agro-industry were found to exacerbate the effects of this conflict. As a
result of inadequate revenue sharing and limited opportunities for employment in related areas,
support amongst local farmers for both conservation and tourism initiatives was found to be low
and is undermined further by HWC. Mitigation of this around VNP is currently limited to active
guarding and the construction of largely-inadequate physical barriers, though both these
measures incur significant and varied costs on park-adjacent communities. More novel mitigation
measures are recommended in this case, in addition to the improvement of current methods.
Direct compensation for crop raiding damage is being implemented though is likely to result in
more complex forms of conflict. As tested in this study, introduction of a locally-funded insurance
scheme may be a more viable solution.
Three important conclusions have been drawn from this study. First, HWC has a significant impact
on conservation and development, through reduced support for conservation and restricting
development of park-adjacent communities by diverting limited resources towards conflict
mitigation. Second, though ecological data are important in describing conflict, levels of HWC and
its impacts are not predominantly determined by local factors, but have broader political and
economic drivers such as national policies aimed at agricultural expansion and the demands of
private industry. Some of these, such as regional political instability and current agreements
regarding agricultural activities, may have their roots in the more distant past. Finally, though
identified as a constraint on conservation and development, HWC represents one of several
complex limitations to the development of marginalised communities and the conservation of
valued biodiversity. This case study reveals that reconciling conservation and development aims
where HWC is a factor are likely to necessitate a more holistic approach to HWC analysis and
mitigation than those previously adopted.

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