Can you bribe people to like predators?

My latest article, "Media Framing of Financial Mechanisms for Resolving Human-Predator Conflict in Namibia", (bit of a mouthful, I'm sorry) has just been published in the journal Human Dimensions of Wildlife (and what's more, it's FREE to read - thanks ESRC for paying for open-access articles!). 

The long and short of this study is that I read a bunch of Namibian newspapers to see how different types of finance schemes (i.e. payments of some sort) could improve human-carnivore coexistence.  

In plain English, what this means is does giving people money really make them happier about having carnivores living on their farm and potentially eating their livestock?

[spoiler alert]

Well the answer is: not really.

In particular, compensation (i.e. being paid for livestock that has been killed by predators) was seen in bad light when people were (un)fortunate to be enrolled in this scheme.  This was because of problems with corruption, delayed payments, the money not being enough to cover the full cost of livestock, and a general dissatisfaction with being paid off to tolerate predators.

But surely other forms of bribery - I mean "financial mechanisms" - are more effective?  You hear so much about photographic tourism being the solution to conservation.  People earn a lot of money from that, right? 

It's not really as simple as that.  Conservationists unsurprisingly were very positive of this method, but the people who were actually living with predators were less so.  Yes, they liked the money, but they didn't like the fact that their livestock were still sometimes killed.  Plus, not all of the money was shared equally amongst the community (some of the high-up chiefs took more than their fair share - remind you of our government system much?).  Oh and it turns out if you're a livestock farmer, you don't really like people anyway, so having to be all smiley and nice to these demanding foreign tourists all the time can wear you down.

Now, onto the more controversial topic of trophy hunting.  I've previously written that trophy hunting can sometimes benefit conservation, and in this study, the trophy hunters were the first to tell you that this was indeed the case.  But the carnivore conservationists were worried that some predator populations are just too small to be hunted or that too many were being taken out for it to be sustainable.  

So what is the answer?  You may have heard about the wonders of the Namibian conservancy model, where people are allowed to "utilise" the wildlife on their land either by allowing tourists to pay fees to view it, or hunters to shoot it.  But my study found that you get exactly the same problems as those listed above: corruption, unequal benefit distribution and people still being p*ssed off that predators keep munching their beloved cattle.

Coincidentally, my PhD was meant to be on seeing how we can get farmers more money for selling livestock that was farmed in a "predator-friendly" manner (which means that they don't kill all the animals on their farm that have canines and claws - besides their beloved pooch, of course).  But my findings from this study show that actually money is not the be-all and end-all - people don't just value notes and coins over hearts and souls.  What they wanted was freedom, equality and respect.  Freedom to live a life they chose; equality to live a life they deserved; and respect from the people that influenced their lives.

So maybe....


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