What Do Lithuanian Hunters Think of African Swine Fever and Its Control : Perceptions
After the introduction of African swine fever (ASF) into Lithuania in 2014, continuous spread of the disease resulted in infection of the wild boar populations in most parts of Lithuania. The virus has been moving closer to other Western European countries where pig density is high. An efficient surveillance system detecting ASF cases early in domestic and wild animals is necessary to manage this disease. To make surveillance appropriate and effective, it is critical to understand how key players perceive the implemented control measures. This study investigated the attitudes and beliefs of hunters in Lithuania regarding currently implemented or proposed measures for the control of ASF in the wild boar population. Study data were collected through questionnaires distributed via the internet and by hunting associations in Lithuania. In total, 621 fully completed questionnaires were received and analyzed. All measures interfering with extensive hunting, like ban of driven or individual hunting or ban of supplementary feeding were considered as unacceptable and as ineffective measures to control ASF in wild boar. However, selective hunting of female wild boar was generally considered as an unethical act and therefore rejected. Some measures that seem to have been successful in other countries, like involvement of additional forces, were rejected by Lithuanian hunters, thus implementation of these measures could be difficult. The study highlighted that there is a need for improving important relationships with other stakeholders, since many hunters expressed a lack of trust in governmental institutions and regarded cooperation with them as insufficient. Hunters emphasized that their motivation to support passive surveillance measures could be improved with financial compensation and reduction of workload. The present study provides insights into hunters’ perceptions, which may be used as a foundation for additional discussions with these important stakeholders and for adapting measures to improve their acceptance if appropriate.