Reframing Human-Wildlife Conflict
The principal purpose laying at the foundation of The Pasque Flower is to discuss new ways of thinking about contemporary protected area planning challenges and opportunities. A recently published manuscript co-authored by several of us demonstrates that thinking differently and at deeper levels may lead to new and useful insights. This paper, published in Oryx (First view, link http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0030605312000555) uses the notion of mind mapping to uncover mental models of causes of human-wildlife conflict in Namibia, a country which is increasingly dependent on wildlife as a basis for attracting visitors and thus as a diversifying economic development strategy.
As I have noted before, a mental model is a simplified representation of the real world each of us have developed to deal with complexity and uncertainty in any given arena. In the current context, mental models of conflict underlie strategies and tactics to reduce conflict. For Namibia, this is an important question, for as investments in mitigating and preventing conflict have risen, so has the number of conflicts, suggesting that a new way of thinking would be useful to better understand the causes of conflict and effective responses.
In our paper, we discuss how we used small group processes combined with mind mapping software to identify mental models of conflict. A mind map is a graphical representation of factors that contribute to or influence a concept. The concept is located at the center of a graphic, the major factors affecting it are represented by arms, and then additional arms affecting those arms are also identified.
Shown below is one of the mind maps generated in this workshop. The figure shows that for the small group gathered, there were seven major factors affecting human-wildlife conflict: poor land use planning, inadequate management policies, family livelihoods, negative attitudes toward wildlife, increasing wildlife populations, proximity to protected areas, external influences, and increased competition for land and grazing. As the mind map shows, each of these arms is then influenced by other factors.
The closer an arm is to the central concept the greater the leverage that is possible in reducing conflict. Our experience is that many mitigation measures are focused on things easy to do, but with little leverage, such as aversive conditioning.
Thinking about our mental models, and thus diving deeper into the causes of human-wildlife conflict, reveals potential actions and strategies that would have greater leverage in reducing such conflict. Please read the article for more information.