Camera traps help scientist track the movements of tigers in Sumatran forests. Photo by Matt Struebig
Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Criminologists use geographical profiling to identify the locations of serial criminals -- where their home base is located, as well as where they're likely to strike next.
Ecologists and social scientists have adapted the profiling tool to protect tigers.
Tiger numbers are shrinking around the world. Deforestation continues to shrink habitat, forcing tigers into closer contact with humans, increasing their odds of being poached or killed in retaliation for deadly conflicts with humans and livestock.
In Sumatra, tigers and humans enjoy a relatively peaceful coexistence. But conflicts still occur.
To better understand the phenomenon, scientists used algorithms normally deployed by criminologists to create a geographical profile of human-tiger conflict. The data showed what many predicted -- conflict is more likely to occur near villages adjacent to rivers and forests.
In addition to creating a geographical profile of human-tiger conflict, scientists surveyed 2,386 Sumatrans about their tolerance of wildlife. When scientists compared the survey data with their risk map, they realized villages with a lower tolerance for wildlife were more likely to experience human-tiger conflicts.
Wildlife tolerance is the product of a combination of attitudes, emotions, norms and spiritual beliefs, but scientists suggest the characteristic isn't fixed. Education can change people's tolerance.
High-risk villages identified by the new analysis could be the target of future educational campaigns and other efforts to minimize human-tiger conflict.
Researchers shared their new risk analysis in the journal Nature Communications.
"Understanding people's tolerance is key to managing dangerous species and is particularly urgent for tigers," Matthew Struebig, researcher at the University of Kent's Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, said in a news release.
"When combined with our maps of encounter risk, information on people's tolerance to wildlife helps us direct conservation resources to where they are needed most," Struebig said. "This could amount to significant cost savings in terms of animals lost or funding spent, so could be very useful in conservation."