Emotions and Cultural Importance Predict the Acceptance of Large Carnivore Management Strategies by Maasai Pastoralists

Dheer, Arjun; Davidian, Eve; Jacobs, M.H.; Ndorosa, Juliua; Straka, Tanja M.; Höner, Oliver P.


Management strategies to reduce human-carnivore conflict are most effective when accepted by local communities. Previous studies have suggested that the acceptance depends on emotions toward carnivores, the cultural importance of carnivores, and livestock depredation, and that it may vary depending on the types of strategies and carnivores involved. However, no study so far considered these factors simultaneously to compare their influence on the acceptance of management strategies. We quantified the predictive potential of these factors on the acceptance of three management strategies frequently applied to mitigate human-carnivore conflict: no action, relocation, and lethal control. We interviewed 100 members of the Maasai community in Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania. We used structured, closed questionnaires and focused on the three large carnivores involved in the most depredation regionally: spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), lions (Panthera leo), and leopards (Panthera pardus). We found that the majority of respondents accepted no action and rejected relocation and lethal control for all three carnivores. The acceptance of the management strategies was strongly influenced by the emotion joy and by the cultural importance of carnivores, and the effects of joy and cultural importance were stronger than the effect of livestock depredation. We conclude that authorities should evaluate the emotions and cultural importance that local communities associate with carnivores when seeking to gain acceptance of management strategies and account for differences between species. Finally, we recommend that future human-carnivore coexistence studies should consider the socio-psychology of local communities and be done longitudinally to detect shifts in cultural, emotional, and ecological factors over time.