An international team of researchers (with our colleague Agnieszka Olszańska as one of the co-authors) performed a study on 17 years of human-carnivore relations, basing on a systematic review of 502 articles, published between 2000 and 2016. The overall goal of the study was to find out what are the main trends in the on-going global research on human-carnivore relations. Researchers analyzed articles basing on pre-defined factors, like temporal and geographical distribution of research, relations between carnivores and humans (i.e. conflicts and ecosystem services), social actors, carnivore management actions, drivers of change (e.g. variation in institutions and governance structures, economy, demography, culture, lifestyles, etc) and type of applied methods.
Results show that the global research on the human-carnivore relations is deeply biased, both geographically and taxonomically. Indeed, four important knowledge gaps have been identified. Firstly – more studies were conducted in the Global North than in the Global South, although risks and benefits of living alongside carnivores exist in the Global South equally. Secondly, most research focused on large predators, while small and medium-sized carnivores are also source of damages, as well as nature-based benefits or ecosystem services. Thirdly, human-carnivore relations were often framed around conflicts, with little attention to ecosystem services (i.e. benefits) provided by carnivore species (e.g. pest control, waste and carcasses removal, nature-based tourism, etc). Finally, most research was carried out using natural sciences methods, despite methods from the social sciences having much to offer in this context.
Authors highlight the need for more integrative, social-ecological research on human-carnivore relations. Especially that focusing on conflicts could inadvertently perpetuate antagonism between wild carnivores and humans, which may lead to negative attitudes towards carnivores. What is also important, neglecting the beneficial contributions of carnivores to human wellbeing in the scientific literature may jeopardize attempts to implement strategies that foster people’s tolerance of carnivores and human-carnivore coexistence. The authors discussed also how addressing existing knowledge gaps could contribute to mitigating conflicts as well as fostering coexistence between humans and carnivore species. To achieve it more studies on small species, in all the regions of the planet, and describing benefits that carnivores provide to society, are urgently needed.