An interdisciplinary approach to exploring the factors that influence human-carnivore relationships in South America’s tropical dry forests, combining approaches from land-use science, non-human behavioural ecology, to political ecology

PhD Project

Large carnivores are critically important for ecosystems but are vanishing in many world regions. A key threat to carnivores is conflict with humans, often leading to retaliatory killings. Yet, how what influences human-carnivore co-existence in anthropogenic landscapes often remains unclear. The aim of this PhD project is to bring an interdisciplinary perspective to human-carnivore research by focusing on the links between land-use, environmental history, political ecology, and conflict. I will focus on the tropical dry forests of South America, which are hotspots of biodiversity loss and deforestation, to understand the social-ecological conditions that foster or inhibit human-carnivore coexistence. First, I identify diverse livestock systems (since carnivores most-often come into conflict with these land-use systems), describing their distribution in the Argentine Chaco, Brazilian Cerrado, and Bolivian Chiquitania dry forests. I contextualise livestock systems in deforestation and land-use frontiers as a framework to evaluate the historical and current social-ecological processes that have influenced their origin and development in South America. Then, I use oral history and semi-structured interviews to investigate the history and identity of livestock producers in the Argentine Chaco, exploring how they relate to large carnivores (e.g., jaguars and puma), the intensity of conflict they experience, and any changes to carnivore and human behaviour that are occurring. Overall, the aim is to understand the social-ecological changes that livestock producers are experiencing (e.g., from land-use, political, and climatic factors), and how these influence the political ecology of the landscape and overarching more-than-human relations.

Cover picture

Night enclosure with an electric fence preventing jaguar attacks on a vulnerable group of just-weaned calves (©Panthera,