Conflict of Interest Between People and Baboons: Crop Raiding in Uganda

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Much has been written about insect damage to standing crops, but an area that has received little attention within agricultural development, conservation, and primatological literature is that of primates and the potential damage they can cause to farmers' fields. This is likely to become an increasingly important issue for people interested in primates, as conservation projects adopt a more integrated approach to take account of local people's perspectives and needs. The aim of this paper is to examine the impact of crop raiding by primates, particularly baboons, on farmers living around the southern edge of the Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda. I use data gathered during monthly farm surveys and informal discussion groups, along with time budget data, to demonstrate that 1) baboons can cause extensive damage to field crops, such as maize and cassava; 2) proximity of the farm to the forest edge and the presence or absence of neighboring farms affect the likelihood of any farm sustaining crop damage from baboons; and 3) in addition to the direct costs associated with crop losses attributed to baboon foraging activity, there are indirect costs of baboon crop raiding such as increased labor demands to protect crops from them and, occasionally, to replant crop stands badly damaged by baboons. These results have important implications for future primate conservation policy and practice.

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