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Sad Truth Revealed in Global survey of CARNIVORES attacks

Attacks reported in high-income countries mostly occur during recreation and less likely to be fatal

Since 1970, large carnivore attacks on humans have increased, but their frequency and context are influenced by socioeconomic and environmental factors, according to a new study published by Giulia Bombieri of MUSE Science Museum in Italy, Vincenzo Penteriani of the National Museum of Natural Science (CSIC) in Spain, and colleagues in the open access journal PLOS Biology.

The researchers collected information about reported attacks on humans by 12 species of carnivores in three families (Ursidae, Felidae, and Canidae) between 1970 and 2019 from published and unpublished scientific papers, websites, and news articles. Over a 49-year period, they identified 5,089 large carnivore attacks resulting in injury, of which 32% were fatal. The number of reported attacks increased in lower-income countries.

Large felids such as lions caused more deaths in general, with 65% of felid attacks being fatal, followed by canids (49%) and ursids (9%). Most fatal attacks occurred in lower-income countries and lion attacks were mainly predatory, i.e., incidents where humans were attacked with the likely purpose of being consumed.

Attacks in high-income countries were most common during recreational activities, such as hiking, camping, or dog-walking, whereas nearly 90% of attacks in low-income countries occurred during livelihood-related activities like farming, fishing, or grazing livestock. Wild felids and canids were responsible for more predatory attacks, but bears were more likely to attack when surprised, defending cubs, or in food-related interactions such as scavenging human food. Most fatal attacks occurred in lower-income countries where tigers and lions are present.

Ursids were mainly involved in involuntary sudden encounters (45%), defensive reactions by females with cubs (18%) or food-related interactions (16%), such as bears defending a carcass, or being surprised while attacking livestock or feeding on anthropogenic food.
Credit: Vincenzo Penteriani (CC-BY 4.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

The authors say that different approaches are needed to reduce large carnivore attacks in high-income versus lower-income countries. In higher-income countries, educating people about how to avoid dangerous encounters with large carnivores is key. In lower-income countries, where co-existence with large carnivores is mostly involuntary, zoning changes that separate humans and livestock from large carnivore habitats, expanding protected areas, and restoring habitat connectivity would be more appropriate strategies.


Source: PLOS Biology  http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3001946

Citation: Bombieri G, Penteriani V, Almasieh K, Ambarlı H, Ashrafzadeh MR, Das CS, et al. (2023) A worldwide perspective on large carnivore attacks on humans. PLoS Biol 21(1): e3001946. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001946

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