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Subsidient: Joey Markx / Wageningen University
Subsidy: 191.61

Sumatran communities have a history of explaining the causes of human tiger conflicts (HTC) with traditional ecological knowledge and spiritual beliefs. Interviews with local communities were performed in two areas that have experienced different levels of HTC. We assessed to what extent spiritual beliefs and environmental effects are used to describe the causes of HTC and if holding spiritual beliefs determines the chance of retaliatory killing. We also aimed to identify environmental variables that help explain the spatial occurrence of HTC using MaxEnt modelling. We found that communication about Sumatran tigers is impeded by a lack of local species knowledge. Spiritual HTC beliefs were nevertheless held by 74% of respondents. We found that low HTC experience may result in the loss of spiritual beliefs, but holding spiritual beliefs did not seem to provide tigers with inherent higher protection. Our model showed that close proximity to protected areas, waterways, and roads increases HTC probabilities. Risk was also highest in areas with intermediate forest cover loss. There was however little local agreement on the effect of such environmental variables. Based on these results, we expect that future HTC prevention and mitigation will benefit most from education in high risk areas.