The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, in cooperation with the UK-based Fauna and Flora International (FFI), has launched a baseline study to better understand human-wildlife conflicts and approaches to mitigating them.
The abundance of livestock and other foodstuff, coupled with proximity to wildlife habitats, makes villages vulnerable to animals like wolves and bears. Often the threat is not physically against humans but against their economic assets. Wolves kill sheep, cows, and fowl, while bears damage fruit trees, destroy beehives, and deplete honey supplies. Over time these can take a heavy economic toll on villages that are surviving on meager means.
Before suffering heavy economic damage, however, villagers typically resort to killing the wolves or the bears, dealing a blow to an already tattered ecosystem. According to official statistics, 170 wolves have been killed during just three months of 2012.
FFI has been involved in human-wildlife conflict mitigation projects for many years, working extensively in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and, most recently, in the Republic of Georgia. Through a program that combines direct intervention, raising awareness, and market-based innovation, the FFI initiative has seen a marked improvement in the attitudes of livestock farmers towards wolves.
The AUA ACE researchers, all AUA students, are led by Dr. Karen Aghababyan, AUA ACE chief scientist, in studying nine rural communities across Armenia as well as the habitat conditions of the wildlife.
The project, expected to be completed by end of this year, will not only give students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field, but will also contribute to finding solutions to preserving biodiversity while ensuring economic wellbeing in rural communities.