Due to the growing global population, the number of interactions between humans and wild animals will continue to increase. In many cases, these interactions result in conflicts. Such conflicts include diseases that spread from animals to humans, elephants near African villages and wolves in the Dutch countryside, and all of these examples show that people and animals are encountering one another’s boundaries around the world. This often has very harmful consequences for society and the preservation of biodiversity. Wageningen University & Research is in a unique position to study these Human-Wildlife Interactions (HWI) from all angles.
The current coronavirus pandemic has once again demonstrated how far-reaching the consequences of interactions between humans and animals can be. COVID-19 is a zoonosis, a disease transmitted from animals to humans. Rabies, malaria and Lyme disease are additional examples of this. When humans inhabit and affect more natural habitats, the risk of zoonoses increases. In addition, conflicts may arise when predators come into contact with people, livestock and crops. Ensuring that people and wildlife remain separate, for example by setting up nature reserves or installing shark nets, often creates new tensions and problems.
Fundamental changes are therefore needed to address the conflicts arising from human-wildlife interactions. In addition to considering the relationship between humans and animals, we must also consider the relationship between humans themselves. Encouraging changes to human behaviour is playing an increasingly important role in the conservation of nature. Moreover, each situation requires a different approach: what is needed for protecting elephants in the Kruger Park will be very different from handling the situation of rhinos in Nepal.
WUR has unique expertise in the field of social and natural sciences, including sociology, psychology, economics, ecology, biology and animal sciences and aquaculture. Wageningen researchers from these disciplines are intensifying their collaborations to form a broad picture of human-wildlife interactions. Using their interdisciplinary approach, they study the root of the problem and work on solutions that take both human welfare and biodiversity into account. In this way, the interaction between humans and animals can increasingly move from conflict to co-existence.