Positive Interactions Between Irrawaddy Dolphins and Artisanal Fishers in the Chilika Lagoon of Eastern India are Driven by Ecology, Socioeconomics, and Culture
In human-dominated landscapes, interactions and perceptions towards wildlife are influenced by multidimensional drivers. Understanding these drivers could prove useful for wildlife conservation. We surveyed the attitudes and perceptions of fishers towards threatened Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) at Chilika Lagoon India. To validate the drivers of fisher perceptions, we : (1) observed dolphin foraging behavior at stake nets, and (2) compared catch per unit effort (CPUE) and catch income of fishers from stake nets in the presence and absence of foraging dolphins. We found that fishers were mostly positive towards dolphins, believing that dolphins augmented their fish catch and using culture to express their perceptions. Foraging dolphins were observed spending half their time at stake nets and were associated with significantly higher catch income and CPUE of mullet (Liza sp.), a locally preferred food fish species. Wildlife conservation efforts should use the multidimensional drivers of human–wildlife interactions to involve local stakeholders in management.
KeywordsHuman–wildlife interactions Fisher perceptions Dolphin behavior Fisher livelihoods Orcaella brevirostris Fish catch
The authors thank the state Forest Department of Odisha for providing permits to conduct this study. We also thank D. Sutaria for providing initial logistic support and advice, and N. Ban and two anonymous reviewers for comments on this manuscript. We are sincerely grateful to the numerous team members and field assistants who helped conduct the field work for this study. We thank the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, the Society for Marine Mammalogy, The Rufford Foundation and the Conservation Leadership Program for funding the field work of this study. James Cook University, Australia and Nature Conservation Foundation, India are thanked for institutional and logistic support provided to the first author.
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