Location: Pantanal and Alta Foresta (S. Amazon) Brazil
Research: Human Dimensions of the Conflicts Between People and Jaguars in the Pantanal and Amazonia
|Efforts to resolve human-jaguar conflicts have focused on legal and economic interventions. However, law enforcement in remote areas is not effective and economic loss is not the only reason for persecution. Fear, prejudice, the social significance or the excitement of hunting a large predator, as well as other socio-cultural phenomena also explain why people kill jaguars. Conversely, social incentives may significantly motivate rural citizens to tolerate jaguars. Therefore, effective strategies to conserve jaguars must take into account not only legislation and economics, but also socio-cultural factors. This study will: assess the relative importance of legal, economic, political, ecological and socio-cultural factors in determining attitudes and behaviors toward jaguars in two regions of Brazil - the Pantanal and Alta Floresta in southern Amazonia; identify socio-cultural barriers and incentives to change attitudes and behaviors towards jaguars; and design and test socio-cultural interventions to change attitudes and behaviours toward jaguars and their habitat.
Project Update: September 2006
|The PI interviewing a cowboy in southern Amazonia. The agricultural frontier in southern Amazonia has been colonized by settlers from southern Brazil who typically lack knowledge about the local fauna. Unjustifiable fear of jaguars and other prejudices might explain why people persecute jaguars in that region. (photo by Claudio Vicenti)
Field work in Southern Amazonia began in March 2006, focusing on qualitative studies to assess local language patterns and relevant beliefs. Individual interviews and focus groups were conducted. A total of 295 ranch owners and 398 students were interviewed in person and assessed by means of self completion questionnaires. Results show social and cultural factors play a relevant role in human-jaguar conflicts, as opposed to a strictly economic view of the problem.
Socio-cultural significance of jaguars were measured as the number of times the species was cited in open ended questions (e.g. "What's your favorite animal?", "What animal would you like to see more often?", "What is your least favorite animal?, etc.). Jaguar tops the rankings with more positive citations than any other taxonomic group and was behind snakes in negative citations. The exceptionally high socio-cultural significance of jaguars suggests the relationship between people and jaguars might be determined by social and cultural factors in addition to economic factors.
Negative attitudes towards jaguars found among people who have not had any financial loss caused by jaguars suggest financial loss does not explain all the variation in persecution. The next step is to assess the relationship between attitude and persecution.
This study addresses a fundamental component of human-wildlife conflicts: the socio-cultural dimension. Assessing the importance of social and cultural dimensions relative to other factors (e.g. perceptions of economic damage and threat to human safety) will help determine the cause of conflicts between humans and jaguars.
During the next six months, interviews will be conducted in the Pantanal. Once interviews are conducted, the factors determining jaguar persecution in the two study sites (perception of economic damage, human safety, social norms and attitudes) will be quantified. Educational and communication interventions will be conducted in the southern Amazon, and impact will be measured.
|Melanic female jaguar (Panthera onca) photographed in a ranch in southern Amazonia. This particular jaguar had not been involved with livestock depredation problems. Notwithstanding, it has been recently captured and translocated to a zoo in southern Brazil. (photo by Silvio Marchini)
||Jaguar skin in a ranch near Alta Floresta, in southern Amazonia. Even though the trade of jaguar skins was drastically reduced after 1973 when jaguars were listed on Appendix I of CITES, they are highly valued in rural Brazil, which provides additional motivation for jaguar hunting. (photo by Silvio Marchini)