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Conflict with humans is one of the major threats facing the world's remaining large carnivore populations, and understanding human attitudes is key to improving coexistence. We use a socio-ecological model to understand local attitudes towards coexisting with lions. We investigate the importance of a range of tangible and intangible factors on attitudes, including the costs and benefits of wildlife presence, emotion, culture, religion, vulnerability, risk perception, notions of responsibility and personal value orientations. This is for the purpose of effectively tailoring conservation efforts, but also for ethical policymaking. We found that intangible factors (such as fear and ecocentric values) are as important, if not more important, than tangible factors (such as livestock losses) for understanding attitudes. This was based on the effect sizes of these variables. The degree to which participants' fear of lions interfered with their daily activities was the most influential variable. The degree to which benefits accrue to households from the nearby protected area was also highly influential, along with numbers of livestock lost, number of dependants, ecocentric value-orientation, and participation in conflict mitigation programmes. Contrary to what is often assumed, metrics of livestock loss did not dominate attitudes to coexistence with lions. Furthermore, we show that socio-economic variables may appear important when studied in isolation, but their effect may disappear when controlling for variables related to beliefs, perceptions and past experiences. This raises questions about the widespread reliance on socio-economic variables in the field of human-wildlife conflict and coexistence. To facilitate coexistence with large carnivores, we recommend measures that reduce fear (both through education and through protective measures that reduce the need to be fearful), reduction of livestock losses and ensuring local communities experience relevant benefits from conservation. Ecocentric values also emerged as influential, highlighting the need to develop conservation initiatives which are tailored with local values. Article impact statement: Intangible factors are more important than tangible factors in shaping tolerance for lions, and this is crucial for successful policies This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original publication

DOI

10.1111/cobi.13678

Type

Journal article

Journal

Conserv Biol

Publication Date

08/12/2020

Keywords

African lions, conservation project evaluation, human-wildlife conflict, ordinal attitude models, stakeholder attitudes