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Beasts on Fields. Human-Wildlife Conflicts in Nature-Culture Borderlands

By Tino Johansson

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Human-wildlife conflicts are today an integral part of the rural development discourse. In this research, the main focus is on the spatial explanation which is not a very common approach in the reviewed literature. My research hypothesis is based on the assumption that human-wildlife conflicts occur when a wild animal crosses a perceived borderline between the nature and culture and enters into the realms of the other. The borderline between nature and culture marks a perceived division of spatial content in our senses of place. The animal subject that crosses this border becomes a subject out of place meaning that the animal is then spatially located in a space where it should not be or where it does not belong according to tradition, custom, rules, law, public opinion, prevailing discourse or some other criteria set by human beings. An appearance of a wild animal in a domesticated space brings an uncontrolled subject into that space where humans have previously commanded total control of all other natural elements. A wild animal out of place may also threaten the biosecurity of the place in question.

I carried out a case study in the Liwale district in south-eastern Tanzania to test my hypothesis during June and July 2002. I also collected documents and carried out interviews in Dar es Salaam in 2003. I studied the human-wildlife conflicts in six rural villages, where a total of 183 persons participated in the village meetings. My research methods included semi-structured interviews, participatory mapping, questionnaire survey and Q- methodology.

The rural communities in the Liwale district have a long-history of co-existing with wildlife and they still have traditional knowledge of wildlife management and hunting. Wildlife conservation through the establishment of game reserves during the colonial era has escalated human-wildlife conflicts in the Liwale district. This study shows that the villagers perceive some wild animals differently in their images of the African countryside than the district and regional level civil servants do. From the small scale subsistence farmers point of views, wild animals continue to challenge the separation of the wild (the forests) and the domestics spaces (the cultivated fields) by moving across the perceived borders in search of food and shelter. As a result, the farmers may loose their crops, livestock or even their own lives in the confrontations of wild animals. Human-wildlife conflicts in the Liwale district are manifold and cannot be explained simply on the basis of attitudes or perceived images of landscapes. However, the spatial explanation of these conflicts provides us some more understanding of why human-wildlife conflicts are so widely found across the world.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2008
Pages 227
ISBN/ISSN 0300-2934
Publisher University of Helsinki
Location of Publication Helsinki, Finland
Department Geography
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Culture
  3. human-animal contact
  4. Law and legal issues
  5. Literature
  6. Nature
  7. Physical environment
  8. rural development
  9. Security
  10. Wild animals
  11. wildlife