Franziska K. Harich‐Wloka, Anna C. Treydte, Joseph O. Ogutu, Chution Savini, Kriangsak Sribuarod, Tommaso Savini

Between conflict and coexistence: Wildlife in rubber‐dominated landscapes

AbstractThe continuing loss and degradation of their natural habitats forces some wildlife species to increasingly extend their habitats into farmlands, thereby intensifying conflicts with people as resources diminish. Despite massive expansion in rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) plantations in recent decades, little is known about the diversity and distribution of wild mammals in rubber‐dominated landscapes or the associated human‐wildlife conflicts. We assessed the presence and diversity of mammalian wildlife and damage occurrence in such rubber landscapes in southern Thailand, in and around Tai Rom Yen National Park. We interviewed 180 farmers about wildlife visits to their farms and the resulting damage. We conducted 50 transect walks within and adjacent to a natural forest and deployed camera traps at the boundary between the plantations and the forest, as well as deeper into the forest, to assess wildlife presence. A total of 35 mammal species were recorded inside the forest. More than 70% of these were also present at the forest boundary, but species presence and diversity were far lower in the farmland. Elephants (Elephas maximus) were responsible for 90% of wildlife damage incidents within the rubber plantations, with 86% of these cases affecting young plants that had not yet been tapped. Although almost half of the survey respondents reported elephants visiting their farms, less than half of them reported damage. These results suggest that rubber‐dominated landscapes surrounding protected areas have the potential to facilitate coexistence between people and certain wildlife species, particularly if young plants are better protected and plantation management is made more wildlife friendly.

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