An experimental game to examine pastoralists' preferences for human-lion coexistence strategies.
Reconciling conflicts between wildlife conservation and other human activities is a pervasive, multifaceted issue. Large carnivores, such as the African lion Panthera leo are often the focus of such conflicts as they have significant ecological and cultural value but impose severe social and financial costs on the communities that live alongside them. To effectively manage human-lion conflict, it is vital to understand stakeholder decision-making and preferences regarding mitigation techniques and coexistence strategies. We used a novel experimental game framed around lions and livestock protection, played across eight villages in Tanzania, to examine stakeholder behaviour in response to three incentive structures: support for non-lethal scaring, and individual- and community-level subsidies for provision of wildlife habitat. We found that non-lethal deterrent methods were the preferred mitigation strategy and that individual subsidies most increased the provision of wildlife habitat. Subsidies that were conditional on other community members' decisions were less effective at increasing habitat choices. Player characteristics and attitudes appeared to have little influence on game behaviour. However, there was some evidence that gender, wealth, perceptions of respect, and the behaviour of other players affected decision-making. Achieving success in managing conservation conflicts requires genuine stakeholder participation leading to mutually beneficial results. Our findings suggest that, while incentive-based instruments can promote pro-conservation behaviour, these may be more effective when targeted at individuals rather than groups. We demonstrate how experimental games offer a practical and engaging approach that can be used to explore preferences and encourage discussion of conflict management.