An analysis of human-wildlife conflicts in tsavo west - amboseli agro-ecosystem using an integrated geospatial approach: a case study of taveta district.
Human-wildlife conflicts are a challenge to conservationists, researchers and local communities alike. The conflicts have become a serious issue of concern and are a threat to local community livelihoods, safety and wildlife conservation efforts especially in rangelands bordering protected areas. The primary aim of this study was to analyse Human - wildlife conflicts and assess the role of land use and land cover changes as key factors that influence the dynamics of Human wildlife conflicts in Taveta district. The secondary aim was to evaluate the application of Participatory Geographic Information Systems (PGIS) tools and approaches for spatial-temporal analysis of resource changes and as tools for community engagement in the management of Human-wildlife conflicts. Questionnaires, area estimation techniques, direct and indirect observations were used to describe Human-wildlife conflicts. Supervised classification using EXELIS Visual Information Solutions (ENVI) 4.7 software was used for spatial-temporal analysis of land use and land cover change. PGIS tools and processes were used to assess local community awareness on resource changes and their implications on Human-wildlife conflicts. Descriptive statistics, Chi-square and regression analysis were applied at 95% confidence levels in describing and revealing significant effects in Human-wildlife conflicts, land use and land cover changes. Eating and trampling on crops were the main forms of conflicts in Taveta district, followed by livestock depredation. These differed significantly between locations (P < 0.05). Elephants (Loxodonta Africana) and hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) led in crop destruction and livestock depredation respectively. Seasonality was a main factor driving conflicts in the rainfed agricultural zones. Maize was the preferred crop for the top three conflict causing species. Local community attitudes towards conflict causing species were negative. Between 1987-2011, significant changes (p < 0.05) in land use and land cover occurred in woodlands, sisal , plantations, rainfed and irrigated agricultural areas. Land use and land cover changes were as result of agricultural expansion. Through PGIS; linkages between land use / land cover changes and Human-wildlife conflicts were clearly established with agricultural expansion found to be the primary determinant of the nature and spatial distribution of Human-wildlife conflicts. Participatory GIS approaches revealed significant (p < 0.05) cover changes in woodlands, rainfed and irrigated agricultural areas. Local communities were found to be significantly knowledgeable (p < 0.05) about changes in most of the resources and their causes. PGIS compared well to conventional GIS analysis and is an appropriate technology for analyzing land use and land cover changes. In addition, the technology was found to be appropriate for educating local communities on the implications of resource exploitation. There is urgent need for redress of the Human-wildlife conflicts in Taveta district in order to safeguard local community livelihoods and enhance wildlife conservation. In this respect, proper land use planning, increased community awareness on the importance of wildlife and the implications of land use and land cover changes, as well as multi-stakeholder participation in conflict strategy setting,refinement and implementation are necessary. These efforts will benefit from using appropriate technologies such as PGIS to enhance multi-stakeholder participation and transparency. PGIS tools and process will be useful in delineating Zones of Interaction, implementing integrated monitoring and evaluation of trends in land use and land cover changes, identifying and strategizing for opportunities leading to sustainable wildlife utilization with the local communities and evaluating the efficacy of implemented approaches and strategies for Human-wildlife conflicts management. From this study, among the key strategies for Human wildlife conflicts management were; compatible land use practices, fencing of homesteads and farms, rehabilitation of water sources, inter-sectoral coordination and compensation for crop and livestock losses and human injuries or death. Active engagement of local communities will be necessary for the success of Human-wildlife conflict management in the district.