Theses Doctoral

Social and Ecological Underpinnings of Human Wildlife Conflict on Dominica

Douglas, Leo Ricardo

Conflict between psittacines (birds within the parrot family) and agriculture is a growing, unstudied threat to psittacine conservation throughout the Caribbean. The intensification of conflict as an apparent outcome of successful conservation interventions is of particular concern on the island of Dominica. Here, conflict between the island's globally threatened parrots and citrus farmers is a potential roadblock to advancing the gains of threatened species recovery programs. This dissertation provides empirical data on the extent and severity of the losses experienced by farmers due to parrots, and the degree to which the resulting conflict has provoked a parrot conservation backlash. This dissertation analyzes the causes of citrus fruit loss including the role of parrot frugivory in these losses and the predictors of parrot frugivory at multiple scales. It also highlights parrot frugivory as a source of a poorly understood commensal relationship with small passerine birds and suggests that the role of psittacines as top-down modifiers of canopy community dynamics is underappreciated. Using social science research methods I illustrate the importance of investigating the meanings and value-oriented attitudes that stakeholders hold towards parrots. I show that it is possible for popular conservation tools such as the flagship concept to inadvertently marginalize other closely related species within a local culture, and that this may be particularly important when human-wildlife conflicts are present. Finally the dissertation illustrates that, overall, crop loss attributed to parrots on Dominica has become a surrogate issue and focal point within a much larger public dispute about the state of agriculture and the security of farmers on Dominica. The findings therefore illustrate the inherent complexity of conflicts involving wild animals and underscore that efforts to understand and mitigate such conflicts in a traditional reductionist manner as purely wildlife-crop loss issues may be misguided. I therefore advocate that multidisciplinary systems perspectives are essential for both the study and management of this and similar conflicts.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Thesis Advisors
Porzecanski, Ana Luz
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 27, 2017