Community Perceptions of the Crop-Feeding Buton Macaque (Macaca ochreata brunnescens): an Ethnoprimatological Study on Buton Island, Sulawesi
Human–wildlife overlap is increasing worldwide as a result of agricultural expansion. This can reduce human tolerance of wildlife, especially if wildlife threatens human food sources. The greatest threat to the declining populations of the endemic Buton macaque (Macaca ochreata brunnescens) is habitat destruction, but as a common crop-feeding species, there is also an additional risk of retaliation killings from farmers. Finding means of reducing this risk will thus help secure the long-term future of this range-restricted subspecies. Here, we investigate variability in farmers’ perceptions of primate crop-feeding and mitigation techniques in three farming communities on Buton Island, Indonesia, which differ in wealth and agricultural resources. We employ a mixed methodology, collecting qualitative social data from focus groups and quantitative observational data to measure macaque crop-feeding occurrences. Our findings indicate that the least wealthy community used lethal control methods more frequently than the comparatively wealthier communities, even when the crop-feeding problem was less severe. The least wealthy community also expressed high levels of fear of macaques, and had the most negative perceptions of them. This community also had no knowledge of the macaques’ conservation status or their ecological roles. We recommend that efforts to protect Buton macaques focus on education and the use of effective nonlethal mitigation techniques, such as electric fencing. We also suggest that initiatives to support such measures may be most effectively directed toward communities with relatively low economic wealth and high reliance on subsistence agriculture, especially where crop-feeding wildlife is feared, even when such communities do not experience the highest losses from crop-feeding wildlife.
KeywordsCrop feeding Ethnoprimatology Farming Human–wildlife conflict Indonesia Mitigation Pests Primates
This project was supported by Operation Wallacea and the University of Exeter. The authors would like to express grateful acknowledgments to all participants who partook in the focus group discussions in Labundo-bundo, Kaweli, and Lawele. We thank Charlotte Palmer, Graden Froese, Josh Twining, Caoimhe O’Brien, and Seth Wong for their assistance on site, and Lindsay Childs, Jade Lavallee, Elizabeth Allen, and Emma Doherty for assisting with the macaque behavioral data collection. We extend thanks to the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and Kementerian Riset dan Teknologi Republik Indonesia (RISTEK) for providing permission to complete this research under RISTEK permit no. 211/SIP/FRP/SM/VI/2013 and 178/SIP/FRP/SM/V1/2014. We also thank Joanna Setchell and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful and constructive comments, and Sarah Crowley for her useful academic feedback.
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