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Vultures vs livestock: conservation relationships in an emerging conflict between humans and wildlife

  • Antoni Margalida (a1), David Campión (a2) and José A. Donázar (a3)

Human–wildlife conflict is emerging as an important topic in conservation. Carnivores and birds of prey are responsible for most conflicts with livestock and game but since the mid 1990s a new conflict is emerging in south-west Europe: the presumed killing of livestock by griffon vultures Gyps fulvus. Lack of scientific data and magnification of the problem by the media are increasing alarm amongst the public, and political pressures to implement management decisions have not been based on scientific evidence. We compiled information on 1,793 complaints about attacks by griffon vultures on livestock, lodged with Spanish authorities from 1996 to 2010. Spain is home to the majority (95%) of griffon vultures and other scavengers in the European Union. Most of the cases occurred in areas of high livestock density, affected principally sheep (49%) and cows (31%), and were associated with spring birthing times (April–June). On average 69% of the complaints made annually were rejected because of a lack of evidence about whether the animal was alive before being eaten. The total economic cost of compensation was EUR 278,590 from 2004 to 2010. We discuss possible ways to mitigate this emerging human–wildlife conflict. These need to include the participation of livestock farmers, authorities, scientists and conservation groups.

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