Landowner perceptions of livestock predation: Implications for persecution of an Amazonian apex predator

E. B. P. Miranda, C. A. Peres, C. T. Downs

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1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Apex predators are widely threatened globally and generally considered a priority on the conservation biology agenda. The harpy eagle, Harpia harpyja, is an apex predator threatened by habitat loss and persecution and a flagship species for Neotropical conservation. We investigated the roles of social, economic and environmental factors related to livestock depredation by harpy eagles, causes of reported harpy eagle persecution by local landholders and the intent of future harpy eagle killings. We explored these issues using structured interviews with 184 local livestock owners, who had admitted killing a combined total of 181 harpy eagles. We found that livestock abundance and livestock husbandry were the best positive predictors of levels of self-reported livestock predation by harpy eagles. Domestic livestock reported to be killed by harpy eagles (192) were mainly chickens (47.9%), followed by goats (22.4%), pigs (18.2%) and sheep (8.3%), with pets representing only ~3% of kills. Few harpy eagle killings were related to livestock predation, which accounted for less than 20% of all eagles killed. Instead, the main reason for killing harpy eagles was simple curiosity, and many interviewees reported later regretting their acts. Regarding intent to kill harpy eagles in the future, interviewees’ perceptions of the threat posed to livestock and humans by eagles, and the subjective norm, were unrelated to intent to kill harpy eagles further. The single most important factor in predicting intent to kill harpy eagles was whether the interviewee had suffered livestock predation by eagles in the past. Additionally, the intention to kill eagles was negatively associated with landholding size. Most of our interviewees were relatively large landowners, but they are typically outnumbered by smallholders who are more likely to persecute harpy eagles. Consequently, education, compensation and tourism activities should be directed to smallholders to mitigate unnecessary persecution and mortality of harpy eagles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-124
Number of pages15
JournalAnimal Conservation
Volume25
Issue number1
Early online date3 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

Keywords

  • Amazonia
  • apex predator
  • Arc of Deforestation
  • Harpia harpyja
  • harpy eagle
  • human–wildlife conflict
  • livestock predation
  • theory of planned behaviour

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