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BRIEFNovember 9, 2023

Human-Wildlife Conflict: Global Policy and Perception Insights


Human-wildlife conflict is one of the most pressing issues facing biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Human-wildlife conflict is when encounters between humans and wildlife lead to negative impacts, such as wildlife raiding crops, attacking livestock, injuring people, or damaging property, often leading to the loss of livelihoods and exacerbation of poverty. It can occur in and around protected areas or along migratory corridors where agricultural landscapes overlap with wildlife habitat. These socio-economic consequences can negatively influence perceptions of people towards wildlife and conservation efforts and, in retaliation, people may kill or relocate the problem animal.  

A wide range of species groups are involved in human-wildlife conflict, from those that are common, to mammals of conservation concern such as elephants and large carnivores (e.g. lions, jaguars, snow leopards, tigers). The latter are at risk of further decline due to these conflicts. This is why Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) included within Target 4 of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF) the need to ‘…effectively manage human-wildlife interactions to minimize human-wildlife conflict for coexistence’. This is the first time that human-wildlife conflict has been explicitly referenced within global targets for biodiversity, reflecting an increase in political attention. 

In the lead-up to the adoption of the KMGBF, the GEF-funded, World Bank-led Global Wildlife Program (GWP) completed a global survey to understand the context behind increasing attention by governments to the issue of human-wildlife conflict. The survey explored government perceptions of the severity and scale of human-wildlife conflict, as well as the effectiveness of their country’s response.  The top insights from the global survey completed by 70 countries[1] are summarized below.  

Human-wildlife conflict is increasing globally, but especially in low-income countries.  

Rapid population growth, high dependence on natural capital, shifting land use patterns that bring people and natural habitats into close contact, and a lack of financial resources to respond make low-income countries most susceptible to human-wildlife conflict. When asked about the nature of human-wildlife conflict, almost two thirds (64%) of responding governments noted that it was a “major” and “serious” concern in their country, a statement that was most supported by low-income countries (86%) and respondents from Africa (72%; Figure 1). Responses on the increasing nature of human-wildlife conflict were more conclusive, with 73% of countries agreeing that human-wildlife conflict “is increasing” (Figure 1), particularly among low-income countries (86%) and also lower-middle- and upper-middle-income (74% and 78%, respectively) categories. A similar pattern emerged across other regions that human-wildlife conflict is becoming more prominent (73% in Latin America and the Caribbean; 67% in Asia and Pacific; and 67% in Europe). Key drivers of human-wildlife conflict, such as changes in habitat fragmentation, shifting wildlife and human populations, and natural disasters, occur globally and underpin these perceptions.

Smallholder, subsistence farmers, and pastoralists are the stakeholders most concerned with human-wildlife conflict.

When governments were asked to identify the stakeholder groups for whom human-wildlife conflict is a primary concern, over half (57%) selected smallholder and subsistence farmers and pastoralists (Figure 2). Smallholder farmers and pastoralists derive most of their income from agriculture and livestock, and with little to no safety nets, the economic damage of losing even a portion of a crop or a few head of livestock is a heavy burden. Similarly, human-wildlife conflict can be a persistent driver of local food insecurity in poor communities. Indigenous communities, who play a significant role in the management of protected and conserved areas, were the second most frequently identified stakeholder group (46%) affected by human-wildlife conflict, particularly in Africa (59%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (55%).

Direct economic damages top the list of most concerning impacts of human-wildlife conflict. However, there are multiple indirect impacts that cannot be overlooked.  

The top three impacts of concern perceived by responding governments were damage to crops (79%), livestock depredation (60%), and the risk of direct encounter with wildlife, with resulting injury or attack (57%; Figure 3). Damage to crops was the most-cited concern in Africa (90%) and in Asia and Pacific (80%), while in Latin America and the Caribbean (91%) and Europe (87%) it was the predation of livestock. Over half of respondents (57%) mentioned potential impacts of injury or attack from wildlife, an important impact noted across all regions except Europe, and the tied top impact in low-income and upper-middle-income categories. The resulting impacts can be severe.

A range of indirect impacts were also mentioned, including concerns over disease transfer, restricted access to natural resources, and fear of wildlife encounters. This invariably impacts the safety, security, and well-being of communities living around protected areas and wildlife corridors.

Looking at these diverse impacts, it is evident that human-wildlife conflict is a multi-sectoral issue.

To supplement the global perceptions survey, the GWP conducted a desktop review of 180[2] adopted National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) to assess whether they mentioned human-wildlife conflict and, if so, in what context. NBSAPs are the primary instrument for national implementation of the CBD, outlining national strategies and targets for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. They aim to support the mainstreaming of biodiversity into relevant sectoral or cross-sectoral plans, programs, and policies – a highly-relevant issue for human-wildlife conflict. The key insights from the NBSAP review are summarized below.  

Almost a quarter (24%) of NBSAPs refer to human-wildlife conflict as an important national issue for biodiversity conservation.

Not surprisingly, no NBSAPs mention human-wildlife conflict explicitly in their national targets, as it was not included in the Aichi Biodiversity Targets on which national targets are based. However, it is still included in many NBSAPs as a priority, mentioned in the overall country context for biodiversity conservation or in supporting narratives for national targets (e.g., on protected area management, threatened species conservation, etc.). Regionally, NBSAPs of countries from Africa (38%) were most likely to mention human-wildlife conflict (Figure 4), followed by Asia[3] (24%), Europe (24%), and Latin America and the Caribbean (22%). No NBSAPs from North America or Oceania mentioned human-wildlife conflict. By income category, low-income countries were most likely to include human wildlife conflict in their NBSAPs (42%), followed by lower-middle-income (27%), high-income (22%), and upper-middle-income (17%) countries.

NBSAPs are twice as likely to mention the sectors impacted by human-wildlife conflict than they are the people and stakeholders that bear the brunt of impacts.

The quarter of NBSAPs that reference human-wildlife conflict are most likely to mention it in terms of its impacts on different sectors. Over eighty percent (84%) of the human-wildlife conflict subset of NBSAPs mentioned at least one sector impacted by human-wildlife conflict. Of these, agriculture including livestock was by far the most frequently mentioned sector of impact (64%), followed by biodiversity conservation (27%), fisheries (16%), and forestry (11%). Agriculture was consistently the most frequently mention across all regions (80% in Europe; 67% in Asia; 60% in Sub-Saharan Africa; and 40% in Latin America and the Caribbean). It was also the most frequently mentioned in high-income (83%), low-income (70%), and upper-middle-income (63%) countries.

In comparison, over half of the NBSAPs referencing human-wildlife conflict made no mention of who was being impacted, with only 43% referencing stakeholder groups. Those that did were most likely to mention smallholder or subsistence farmers (25%). Only a handful (9%) mentioned communities.

Since there are multiple challenges in human-wildlife conflict management, working across sectors and with diverse stakeholders is essential.

Only 23% of respondents to the government survey thought that human-wildlife conflict was sufficiently addressed and well-managed in their country (Figure 6). When asked about specific challenges impeding human-wildlife conflict management, the majority of responses from governments centered on the challenges of competing priorities, engagement with affected communities, technical knowledge and know-how, and policies focusing on the issue. The significance of the latter is confirmed by the NBSAP review which found that the most frequently listed action in NBSAPs for human-wildlife conflict management is the development of targeted policies.

The importance of national policies and strategies to support management of human-wildlife conflict cannot be overstated. They help a country strategize ways to overcome the threats, address drivers of human-wildlife conflict, and clarify the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders. Policies are also an important tool to help ministries of environment (typically charged with the responsibility of wildlife management) integrate human-wildlife conflict into the plans and budgets of other sectors. For example, Namibia’s human-wildlife conflict strategy (2018-2027) discusses how droughts and floods are a key driver of increasing human-wildlife interactions and outlines how activities under the National Disaster Fund accordingly integrate human-wildlife conflict management as part of the government’s disaster risk management and risk reduction programs. Similarly, in India, the human-wildlife conflict national strategy (2021) integrates funding programs and plans across the development sector with other relevant processes. Yet, despite the global reach of human-wildlife conflict and its cross-sector impacts, fewer than 10 countries currently have national strategies focusing on human-wildlife conflict.[4]

Minimizing conflict and maximizing opportunities that promote human-wildlife coexistence are critical.

Human-wildlife conflict will persist as landscapes are modified to adapt to the changing needs of a growing human population, and as protected areas and natural habitats are impacted by cropland and urban expansion. This analysis shows that there is broad agreement across regions and income categories on the complexity and increasing extent of human-wildlife conflict, and that multiple challenges must be addressed to make coexistence a reality.

The inclusion of human-wildlife conflict within the KMGBF is an opportunity to increase awareness of this challenge and direct more resources towards achieving coexistence. We urge governments to recognize human-wildlife conflict within their updated post-COP15 NBSAPs to help mainstream this issue across sectors and facilitate integrated action across relevant ministries. Importantly, management approaches and strategies for achieving coexistence need to be developed in close consultation with the communities and stakeholders that are affected by human-wildlife conflict or have a role to play in wildlife conservation.

A key action to bring stakeholders and sectors together in a shared vision for coexistence is for governments to develop a national policy for human-wildlife conflict. This can be complemented by a range of site-level interventions including participatory land use planning, education and awareness, and assessments of the benefits and costs to local communities. The World Bank and the GWP stand ready to support these efforts, to help ensure that the countries and people that encounter human-wildlife conflict daily have the capacity and tools to manage it while promoting human-wildlife coexistence for conservation and development.

This brief summarizes the results of a global human-wildlife conflict perceptions survey and review of NBSAPs conducted by the Global Wildlife Program, funded by the Global Environment Facility, and led by the World Bank. Aspects of the work were completed with the support of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Human-Wildlife Conflict and Coexistence Specialist Group. For additional information, email



[1] For information on the countries that responded to the survey, see survey report. Survey responses are reported in four regions, adjusted from the World Bank regional classifications by combining regions with low response rates. For the NBSAP analysis, similar regional groupings are used, with the exception of Asia and Pacific which is reported as Asia for accuracy as no NBSAPs in Oceania or the Pacific mention human-wildlife conflict. 

[2] The NBSAPs reviewed were current post-COP10 versions found on the CBD website and available in English, French or Spanish. The list of keywords used in the review: “wildlife”, “human”, “conflict”, “coexistence”, “livestock”, “damage”, “depredation”, “crops” (and equivalents in French and Spanish).

[3] As there were no mentions of ‘human-wildlife conflict’ in NBSAPs from Oceania or the Pacific, data is reported in the regional grouping of Asia to more accurately reflect the geographic region from which NBSAP data is being drawn.

[4] A desktop review identified adopted national human-wildlife conflict policies in Bhutan, Bolivia, India, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Tanzania, and Uganda, with others under development. In addition, some countries with decentralized environmental responsibilities have adopted human-wildlife conflict strategies at the sub-national level (excluded from this analysis).