The Gentleman, the Vagabonds and the Stranger: Cultural Representations of Large Carnivores in Albania and their Implications for Conservation

  • Aleksander Trajce

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores how people in mountainous regions of Albania interrelate with large carnivores. For the research, I used a combination of questionnaire survey and ethnographic fieldwork to generate insights into how rural dwellers perceive and interact with bears, wolves and lynx. Research and conservation efforts relating to large carnivores in areas where they live near humans often have a strong focus on human-wildlife conflicts; with the presumption that conflicts are a central part of people’s relationships with predators. I argue that, although conflicts between people and predators do occur, human-predator relationships in highland Albania are complex and diverse, beyond a simple engagement with conflict-causing animals. Large carnivores have rich local cultural profiles; each species being differently perceived, and responded to, by local groups in terms of their beliefs about the behaviours and characteristics of the animals.

I argue that large carnivores are constructed, and responded to, as social actors and, as such, they are integrated into the moral community of humans. Customary codes that regulate the social life of people in highland Albania seem to extend into relationships with carnivores. Damages from predators are largely interpreted and evaluated on principles of belonging and moral integrity with little considerations of their financial aspects.

Lack of conservation efforts from Albanian institutions for prolonged periods of time, and the remoteness of mountain communities, has brought about a situation in which locals have been largely left uninfluenced in shaping their relationships with large carnivores. I contend that such a situation, albeit seemingly problematic from an outside perspective, is particularly beneficial in maintaining low conflicts with, or over, predators. Recent increases in conservation efforts in Albania may influence relationships between people and predators in the future. Conservation actors will be faced with the challenge of avoiding possible conflict escalation to the detriment of large carnivores and to rural livelihoods.
Date of Award30 May 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorGarry Marvin (Supervisor), Caroline Ross (Supervisor) & Istvan Praet (Supervisor)


  • large carnivores, ethnography, human dimensions, anthropology, human-wildlifec onflict, human animal studies, Albania, Balkans

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