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Abstract: Many wildlife species survive in human-modified landscapes and understanding the opinions of those who share space with wildlife will aid conservation efforts. Using a questionnaire, we assessed the presence of 12 mammal species in 78 tea plantations in the Nilgiris, southern India. We obtained data on (i) plantation size, location, and elevation, (ii) species presence over a year, (iii) type and number of wildlife incidents caused, (iv) financial cost of wildlife damage, and (v) support for wildlife conservation. We used a generalized linear model to assess whether the distance to protected areas, elevation, and plantation size influenced species presence and the effect of these variables and wildlife incidents on support for conservation. Among all species reported, Bonnet Macaque, Wild Boar, and Porcupine were the most widespread, and the former two and the Gaur reportedly caused >50% of damages. Crop damage was the most frequent (74%, n = 244), whereas livestock predation, attacks on people, and infrastructure damage constituted <10% of incidents reported. The cost of wildlife damage was negligible for 72 estates and significant for six. The number of species increased with proximity to protected areas, with increasing elevation and plantation area. Plantation management (62%) supported wildlife conservation, and support increased with decreasing plantation size, increasing distance to protected areas, and with a higher number of species reported, but decreased with increasing incidents of wildlife damage. Mitigating impacts of a few widely distributed species that cause disproportionate damage and compensating those that incur disproportionately high costs could increase support for conservation. Education and awareness programs for the plantation community can further help increase support and participation in wildlife conservation activities. Plantations can thus serve as supplementary habitats for wildlife in regions where hard boundaries between protected areas and human settlements prevail.
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