Human–wildlife conflict (HWC), due to competition for shared natural resources between people and wildlife, influences food security of people and the well-being of people and animals. HWC is a major concern in developing countries, affecting people of different socio-economic classes. We conducted a meta-analysis of the occurrence of published scientific reports on HWC globally and South Africa particularly, to identify vulnerable human communities and their farming practices in developing and developed countries, and vulnerable wildlife guilds. We accessed Institute for Scientific Information publications from 1994 to 2015. Local communities (people living contiguous with protected natural areas) and commercial farmers jointly experienced the highest HWC incidences compared to subsistence farmers, possibly due to reporting bias for commercial farmers. Rural people in Africa and Asia experienced conflict with a diversity of mammals, confirming our expectation that developing countries could potentially experience regular encounters with wildlife. South Africa had more HWC cases than developed countries (e.g., in Australia and North America), yet the dichotomy between first world and third world economies in South Africa provides a regional exemplar of global patterns in HWC. Globally, HWC involved mainly mammals and birds, with carnivores and primates as the most high-scale conflict species and thus were a severely persecuted group. Our foundational research provides the first global assessment of HWC and showed that people in developing countries are vulnerable to HWC, perhaps related to reduced protection of livestock and crops against a larger guild of problem mammals. We suggest that a wider range of literature, including governmental and non-governmental publications, be surveyed to contribute to further research in this area of study.
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