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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Todd K. Fuller

Second Advisor

Eduardo Carrillo

Third Advisor

Lynnette Sievert

Subject Categories



In this study I investigated wildlife and human use of landscapes in the northern Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica (Pacuare-Barbilla sector), including three contiguous protected areas (a national park, a forest reserve, and an indigenous territory), as well as surrounding unprotected areas. I describe and compare perceptions of wildlife by different social actors in the Pacuare-Barbilla sector, collecting information with a questionnaire as an instrument. I also inventoried and monitored the abundance and distribution of a variety of wildlife species occurring throughout the area using camera traps. The species with greater abundance or only occurrence in the national park were mammals and birds commonly hunted, and species present in the forest reserve are species related with perturbed or human presences areas. The park and indigenous territory still keep good forest cover, as well as some important mammal species (e.g. jaguar, paca, red brocket, white-lipped peccary), despite high hunting rates. I also used these data to investigate the potential correlations of human behaviors with differences in biodiversity among different landscapes. A total of 91 questionnaires were applied and 59 wild species were reported by interviewees (33 mammals, 20 birds, 6 amphibian and reptiles); more species were reported by non-indigenous than indigenous interviewees. Moreover, the cited species cataloged as problematic because they attacked cattle, pigs, chickens, or pets, caused crop losses, and posed some risk for humans, were also higher for non-indigenous people. Jaguars and coyotes were cited most often as problem species by both groups. In particular, 68% of indigenous interviewees cited either jaguar or puma as causing attacks to their animals (pigs and cows mostly), with a total of eight species as poultry predators and six more as crops eaters. Both groups perceive less rainfall and higher temperatures, as well less forest cover and smaller jaguar populations, compared to 10 or more years ago. The feelings and attitudes about big cats changed in relation to how close people think they are or by their view of their negative impacts. Indifference and fear were the most named feelings, and relative intensity of feelings varied by ethnicity and gender. This geographical area is a very good example of how different regulations could result in differences in some mammal and bird species abundances and occurrences, and thus need to be considered when assessing the overall effectiveness of protection as a conservation strategy. Moreover, is necessary involve, learn from and work with local communities, especially concerning attacks on domestic animals, to better address conservation projects generating long-term benefits for humans and the wildlife.


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