A new study led by Northern Arizona University has revealed that cattle producers in 133 developing countries – including Kenya, Uganda, and India – are much more vulnerable to economic disruption due to livestock depredation by large carnivores. In such lower income areas, even the loss of one animal can have dire consequences.
“For most farmers, livestock represents a key – if not their only – income source. When that livestock is threatened by large predators, it can be financially devastating for them,” explained study senior author Duan Biggs.
The experts found that the amount of meat produced per animal in a developing country is about 31 percent less than that in a developed country, which makes a livestock loss more devastating. According to the research, the loss of a single cow or bull is comparable to a child losing nearly 18 months of calories.
“Our results mirror a lot of the conversations currently taking place in the climate change space; namely that developing economies from the Global South pay the biggest price for conservation, but in this case rather than protecting forests and providing an offset environment for big polluters, they are often the ones paying the price for living alongside species like African lions or tigers – species most of the world loves and wants to see being conserved,” said study lead author Alex Brackowski of Griffith University.
The researchers believe wealthy nations must increase their financial assistance beyond the multibillion-dollar ecotourism industry.
“Our research demonstrates the urgency of developing mechanisms like payments from wealthy urban areas in rich countries where people want predators like lions conserved, to the rural communities in the Global South that bear the costs and risks of living with these fierce and dangerous animals,” said Biggs.
Study co-author Sophie Gilbert takes a western-centric view of the human-animal relationship. She uses economics to stress that the only way for conservation to succeed is for local people to deem what is an acceptable level of wildlife.
“Our work helps show that to become truly nature positive, we need to consider both the benefits and the costs of wildlife to people, and ensure that those bearing the costs of living with wildlife are better supported, financially and otherwise,” said Gilbert.
“Only when living with wildlife is stable and viable for local people will the conservation of creatures like large carnivores succeed.”
We can only hope that the local peoples of the Global South have a higher tolerance for predators than the people of many wealthy nations where large predator populations have historically been brutally decimated.
The research is published in the journal Communications Biology.
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