Scientists Develop Framework for Human-Wildlife Coexistence

A stone with the Coexist slogan on it.
A nice slogan, but what would coexistence look like as it pertains to human-wildlife interactions? IMG_9612 by Patrick Denker. CC BY 2.0

The term “coexistence” gets thrown a round a lot, but what does it mean? More importantly, how do we achieve coexistence as it pertains to wildlife?

That’s what Dr. Silvio Marchini and his co-authors sought to determine in their recent paper.

You might remember Dr. Marchini from his Q&A posts on this blog. In his latest article in the journal Frontiers in Conservation Science, Dr. Marchini teamed up with other leading human dimensions researchers to design a framework for achieving human-wildlife coexistence.

Below is a brief preview of their framework.


Planning should be Participatory and Equitable

One of Marchini et al.’s (2021) main points is that conservationists need to utilize detailed, participatory, and equitable planning processes.

While this might seem like a “duh” statement, keep in mind that human-wildlife conflicts are often complex situations with multiple – and competing – interests. More powerful actors may be tempted to force their agendas on those with less political clout, but this might reduce buy-in to the final decision and prolong the conflict.

Thus, conservationists and wildlife managers need to make a concerted effort to bring all the relevant parties to the table, and to ensure that all of their voices are taken seriously.

Divide “Coexistence” into Attainable Goals

Once an equitable planning process is in place, Marchini et al. (2021) recommend taking the overall goal of “coexistence” and breaking it down into more concrete, measurable outcomes.

This takes a vague ideal (coexistence) and divides it into a serious of smaller goals, which makes the messy problem of human-wildlife conflict (i.e. negative interactions between humans and wildlife, or between different groups of people about wildlife) appear less daunting.

By having measurable goals, participants can also track their progress towards the intended solution.

Another key point in Marchini et al.’s (2021) new paper is that planners should divide human-wildlife “interactions,” as they call them, into two separate domains: the wildlife and human situations.

This makes it easier to visualize the interests of both wildlife and humans, and to see where those interests overlap or diverge.

Visualize Everything

In fact, Marchini at al.’s (2021) planning process can utilize a whole series of diagrams, charts, and other images to help participants visualize the situation. This allows them to “see” what the problem is, and what the ideal solutions would be for both humans and wildlife.

I also wonder if the visualizations that Marchini et al. (2021) recommend might create a more equitable playing field, since they could help participants with different educational backgrounds to get on the same page.


Read the Paper

I’ve barely scratched the surface of Marchini et al.’s (2021) new paper, but you’re going to have to read the full article to get the rest of the content. There’s more information in the article than I can cover here, and I’ve now had four shots of espresso and can no longer control my thoughts.

Notice the placement in this image: coffee comes before work. Image by Engin_Akyurt, found on Pixabay.

The main takeaway, though, is that Marchini et al. (2021) have described an equitable planning process for addressing human-wildlife conflicts that’s backed by both theoretical and practical knowledge.

This process takes the vague goal of coexistence and makes it achievable, which is a big deal.

To learn more, click on one of the many links I’ve included to Marchini et al.’s (2021) recent article and read it for yourself: it’s free.

References

Marchini, S., Ferraz, K. M. P. M. B., Foster, V., Reginato, T., Kotz, A., Barros, Y., … Macdonald, D. W. (2021). Planning for human-wildlife coexistence: Conceptual framework, workshop process, and a model for transdisciplinary collaboration. Frontiers in Conservation Science, 2. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcosc.2021.752953.

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