Interests, beliefs, experience and perceptions shape tolerance towards impacts of recovering predators.

Published online
19 Mar 2024
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Hobson, K. J. & Stringer, A. & Gill, R. & MacPherson, J. & Lambin, X.
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The modification of landscapes is increasing the interface between humans and wildlife, while conflicts concerning predator impacts on human activities persist. Some previously persecuted but now protected predator species are experiencing recovery and range expansion. Tolerance is considered essential for achieving coexistence between humans and wildlife; however, its conceptualisation remains unresolved. Little is known about tolerance in the context of recovering predators, particularly which drivers are relevant to all or specific species and human interests. Using an online questionnaire survey shared with members of organisations with interests in rural land-based activities, we collected data on interests and beliefs, and attitudes, perceptions, experience and management preferences for six recovering vertebrate predators in the United Kingdom (n = 819). We created a species tolerance score representing the management choices of the respondents in different conflict scenarios, which differed in the degree of impact on the predator population. Our species tolerance score was characterised by a complex combination of the interests and beliefs of the respondents about wildlife management, perceptions and experience of that species (perceived benefits, population trend, positive and negative experience, indirect negative experience) and negative experience of other recovering predators. We found a tolerance gradient between interest groups with notable overlap between groups with primary interests in wildlife conservation, shooting, farming and fishing. Although higher perceived benefits consistently corresponded to higher tolerance, having a negative experience of the species dampened the effect of perceived benefits on tolerance. When both negative personal and indirect experiences were reported, tolerance was dramatically reduced. The classification of species from least to most tolerated was consistent between interest groups. The application of our species tolerance score as the normative dimension (i.e. acceptability) in Brenner and Metcalf's (2020) Social Tolerance of Wildlife Framework highlights that tolerance (negative attitude-high acceptability) is potentially rare and more positive attitudes must be achieved before acceptance of the impacts of species can increase. Our findings highlight that considering only primary interests may hinder debates concerning recovering predators. Strategies to reduce negative experiences or change how they are perceived could significantly increase tolerance in combination with increasing positive experiences.

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