Abstract for:Modeling Andean bear livestock depredation, local risk perception and tolerance in northern Ecuador
Human-wildlife conflicts are a significant contributor to negative perceptions of carnivores worldwide. Several individual Andean bears have consumed large numbers of livestock in two small villages, Mariano Acosta and La Florida (MALF), in Ecuadorís northern Andes cordillera. The damage is significant to the regionís predominantly pastoral livelihoods and has negatively affected bear perceptions in the region. We used a socio-ecological (SES) framework in VensimPLE to model how livestock, depredation, bear populations, and perceptions in the rural MALF interrelate. Our preliminary results found a correlation between the stock of local problem bears, depredation, and communal fear of the bear. In-turn, these perceptions led to more hunting of bears in the region, while areas of conflict are exacerbated by continued rates of deforestation. Preliminary scenario analysis highlight potentially crucial areas of intervention - environmental education can positively influence perceptions but may not alone be enough to halt retaliatory hunting to depredation. Based on our model, we encourage further study of pastoral interventions, such as electric fencing or more frequent pasture checks. Additionally, more research on deforestation and pasture location is crucial to understanding the underlying drivers of the depredation conflict.