Griffon vultures, livestock and farmers: Unraveling a complex socio-economic ecological conflict from a conservation perspective
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An unexpected human-wildlife conflict between vultures and livestock has emerged in Europe during the last two decades. Farmers attributed changes in vulture behavior, due to food shortages caused by sanitary regulations, to increasing livestock interactions (‘vulture attacks’). To disentangle this conflict, we analyzed 683 farmer complaints between 1996 and 2020 in Catalonia (northeastern Spain) and investigated the eco-anthropological factors driving their frequency. We also assessed farmers' perception through 127 interviews. Most complaints (80 %) occurred during the birthing season, mainly involving cattle (76.5 %), followed by horses (14.9 %) and sheep/goats (8.6 %). From 2008 to 2020, vulture-livestock conflicts cost the government €192,000 (~22 % of claims compensated). The frequency of complaints was positively associated with extensive livestock density, griffon vulture Gyps fulvus abundance (breeding and non-breeding), shorter distances to landfill sites and, to a lesser extent, to supplementary feeding stations. In contrast, there was a negative relationship between complaints and the number of griffon vulture breeding pairs, suggesting that long-distance foraging movements by both breeding and non-breeding individuals may play a major role in determining the occurrence of conflicts. Farmers (88 %) said that vultures attack livestock and that attacks had increased in recent years because of significant vulture population increases and food shortages due to sanitary regulations. They considered government policies and compensation ineffective. We highlight the critical need for mitigation in areas with high extensive livestock numbers, particularly during birthing times. Scientific assessments and interdisciplinary awareness campaigns on the coexistence of vultures and livestock are necessary to harmonize biodiversity conservation and agro-pastoral practices in rural economies.
Is part ofBiological conservation, 2022, vol. 272, núm. 109664, p. 1-9
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