Wildlife and Humans – Conflict Alongside Coexistence
Wild boar on the streets of Haifa, jackals in the fields of Hefer Valley, hyaenas in the Jerusalem Hills, rock hyraxes on Mt. Carmel… The conflict of coexistence between humans and wildlife reached a multi-participant, in-depth discussion at Ramat Hanadiv, aiming to find creative ways to allow coexistence in the city, agriculture and nature
Until only a few years ago, an encounter with a wild boar or hyaena on the city streets or even in nature was considered a special and even emotional event. In recent years this has become a routine occurrence in many places around the country: wild boar roam freely in the suburbs of Haifa, Tivon and Zihkron Ya’akov in search of food, there is a known hyaena roaming freely among backyards in Modi’in, and in many places around the country jackals enter backyards and of course, agricultural fields, in search of food scraps.
A reduction in wild animals’ living territories, due to construction and development on the lands that comprise their habitats, and the great ease with which they can find food in rubbish bins and agricultural fields, create an ever-worsening conflict. Farmers earn their living with great effort and are desperate for a solution; encounters with wildlife in the city create fear and are hazardous; and the continuing growth of these populations, known as ‘overabundant species’, leads to competition over the land and its resources, and suppression of other less versatile species.
How do we solve this seemingly ever-intensifying problem?
Dealing with overabundant wildlife in the city, nature, and agriculture is part of the agenda of organisations and municipalities in Israel and around the world and has many facets. To understand this subject in greater depth and create a common base for dialogue among different stakeholders, a symposium titled ‘Wildlife and Humans: Conflict alongside Coexistence’ took place at Ramat Hanadiv in late November. The symposium is the fruit of collaboration between Ramat Hanadiv, Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture; about 150 professionals, academics and experts from Israel and abroad took part, sharing their experience on this subject and their suggestions for improving the situation. Prof. Justin O’Ryan from South Africa presented an approach combining a number of methods, aiming to separate between the living territory of the baboon – a locally overabundant species – and humans. The establishment of a ‘Baboon Research Unit’, as well as fencing, threatening, detailed monitoring of behavior and in-depth familiarity with different individuals, allowed rapid moderation of the conflict through controlled harm to a minimal number of individuals who were considered to be ‘problematic’. Dr. Giovanna Messi from England presented advanced methods for reducing the birth rate and populations of wild boar, which are also a severe problem in Europe. Many Israeli experts presented problems, data, and both successful and unsuccessful solutions.
Following the symposium there was a smaller workshop involving 60 stakeholders from different organisations and bodies, as well as representatives of the public. The workshop dealt separately with each of the ‘arenas’ of conflict with wildlife: city, agriculture and nature.
The understanding that developed at the end of these two enriching days was that in order to facilitate a sustainable solution we must encourage collaboration among different bodies and primarily – that there is no single ‘magic solution’ and the problem will not be ‘solved’.
We learned that since the problem is complex, its management requires shared responsibility and collaboration among different stakeholders in order to formulate policy and principles of action and implement them in the field. We also learned that we must combine a number of modes of action, that education to raise public awareness and reduction of accessible waste in the city, as well as in agriculture, are important parts of the puzzle and that attempts that were successful abroad teach us that we must try to create good separation between the living territories of humans and wildlife, for the benefit of all.