A Survey of Human-Hippo and Human-Crocodile Interactions across Africa

Theme: Biodiversity, Ecology & Conservation

Primary Supervisor:

Simon Pooley

Department of Geography, BBK

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Secondary Supervisor:

Muki Haklay

Geography, UCL

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Project Description:

Human-wildlife conflicts have been identified by the IUCN, WWF, World Bank and others as a major and increasing challenge for the Anthropocene Epoch, as humans and wildlife increasingly share space and dwindling resources on a crowded, warming planet.

Human-Wildlife Conflict is provisionally included in the CBD post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, but this is conditional on formulating quantifiable targets. Measuring conflict is complex. An initial step is to establish where problematic human-wildlife interactions are happening, and the nature of those interactions.

The world’s wetlands have been massively transformed, are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and are vital for the survival of humans and wildlife. Across Africa, two keystone wetland species are implicated in ongoing problematic interactions causing social and economic damage and resulting in conflicts over how to manage this: common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) and Nile crocodile (reclassified as C. niloticus and C. suchus).

This PhD will survey human-hippo and human-crocodile interactions across Africa. Phase one involves a questionnaire survey with mapping of conservation managers and researchers, to identify hotspots of interactions and conflicts, the kinds of interactions, management interventions and their effectiveness. Mapping this data will incorporate biophysical factors e.g. seasonality in water levels, temperatures and food availability.

Phase two focuses on locals in identified hotspots. This involves quantitative and qualitative research. The former includes finding more information on incidents, using grey literature and also data scraping social media. The latter investigates locals’ experiences of interacting with these species, relevant land use practices, and their perceptions of management interventions

Policy Impact of Research:

The knowledge gained will inform conservation policies on managing problematic interactions involving these species, identifying key categories of problematic interactions and insights into responses to these. It will identify priority areas for management interventions. The project will provide an opportunity to reflect on challenges for mapping human-wildlife incidents and conflicts worldwide, to inform ongoing thinking on how to develop an index for quantifying human-wildlife conflict.


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