Troublesome Neighbours: Changing Attitudes Towards Chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes) in a Human-Dominated Landscape in Uganda

Type Journal Article - Journal for Nature Conservation
Title Troublesome Neighbours: Changing Attitudes Towards Chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes) in a Human-Dominated Landscape in Uganda
Volume 20
Issue 4
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2012
Page numbers 219-227
Long-term human–wildlife sympatry depends on the willingness and capacity of local people to coexist with wild animals. With human population growth and deforestation for agriculture, farmers increasingly live in proximity to wildlife, including large mammals of conservation concern. Understanding local perspectives and concerns regarding wildlife is essential for informing appropriate management strategies that reduce conflicts and promote sustainable coexistence. Social science approaches therefore have a critical role in integrated conservation programmes. We undertook an attitude survey to understand residents’ perspectives about sharing a landscape with chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in an unprotected forest–agriculture mosaic in Uganda. Interviews (n = 134) in 12 villages demonstrate residents’ ambivalence towards living alongside these protected yet potentially troublesome mammals. Chimpanzee behaviour is reported to have undergone recent changes. Residents claim apes increasingly enter villages for food, threaten people, and pose a particular threat to children’s safety. Chimpanzee numbers are believed to have increased locally. Most interviewees fear chimpanzees, considering them dangerous. Crop losses to chimpanzees were widely reported. Farmers tolerate raiding of domestic fruits, but not cash-crops. Results demonstrate that attitudes towards wildlife are not fixed. Reported changes to chimpanzee behaviour are challenging villagers’traditionally benign attitude towards them. Even so, residents acknowledge benefits to chimpanzees because they reportedly displace other crop-raiding wildlife which, unlike chimpanzees, damage important staple food crops. Survey findings are contextualised with respect to recent, major land-use changes in Uganda (clearance of unprotected forest for timber and agriculture) that have precipitated a sharp rise in farmer–chimpanzee interactions. We discuss the study’s broader implications for protected mammal management and conflict mitigation in human-dominated landscapes, and ask whether it is appropriate to expect impoverished rural farmers to accommodate large-bodied mammals that pose a potential threat to their safety and livelihoods.

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