Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Disentangling Human-Wildlife Conflict

An overdrive for development has been putting man and wildlife on a course of perilous confrontation and conflict between the two. Some imaginative solutions are called for to avert this, finds Dr. Mugdha Singh

Human-wildlife conflicts are negative interactions between wild animals and people that leave damaging impact on people and animals. They are more realist than their coexistence. It occurs when growing human populations overlap with established wildlife territory, creating reduction of resources. The conflict takes many forms ranging from loss of life or injury to humans and animals to loss and degradation of habitat.

Image Courtesy: http://wildliferesearch.org/

Conflicts are regular in metropolitan cities because of scarcity of forest and green patches. These conflicts are serious obstacles to wildlife conservation efforts and becoming more prevalent as human populations increase and diversify, development expands rapidly, resources shrink, global climate changes, and other human, societal and environmental factors put people into greater potential and possibility for conflict with wildlife.

Conflict Creation

Sightings of leopard, nilgai or blue bull, python are quite common in many cities of India, including metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata etc. Wild animals straying to nearby cities shows that their habitat are being encroached upon and destroyed up to that level that they do not have any option but to sneak into the cities in search of food and shelter.

Most of the conflicts in India are reported from the periphery to the protected areas (PAs). Rapid increase in human population in these periphery areas leads to frequent disturbance in the habitat of wild animals. Many such areas are hotspots of tourism which pushed animals further inside these PAs. Deforestation and other human activities in PA have increased conflicts situations.

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Pin by Greg Roughan

Major reasons of conflicts are, walling of habitats and the segregation of other wild patches that restricted the movement of animals from one area to another. These restrictions make wildlife islands around cities increasingly susceptible to inter and intra species competition.

Why blame wildlife

It is difficult to blame wildlife for its conflict with humans, because the animals are simply, doing what animals do. However, humans view wildlife as pests, and blame them for damaging their livelihoods, or as a danger to their community. The challenge for conservationists is to change this attitude by offering them, practical, workable and effective solutions.

Often the plight of urban wildlife is dismissed because city dwellers consider them to as nuisance. There is a need to educate the public towards increased tolerance of the wildlife around and help them to coexist peacefully.

Image Courtesy: http://www.fao.org/

Finding solutions

An important aspect of reducing conflict is about finding solutions that lead to mutually beneficial co-existence of Humans and animals.

There is no ‘silver bullet’, no ‘one’ technique or strategy that can be used everywhere. We need specific technique for different conflicts. These solutions should be species and area specific, creative and simple, which should benefit both the animals and local human communities, and actively involves these communities.

Good management policies are being practiced in many of the PA in India and many success stories have emerged in past decade.

1)     Some of the main practices are shifting human population from locality lying on periphery or near PA to alternate locality.
2)   Mass awareness campaigns and assigning dedicated rescue teams especially to those areas where these conflicts frequently take place.
3)     Shifting thrust to educating the value of biodiversity through non-formal education might reduce the confrontation among humans and animals.

Steps to Save Wildlife

United efforts by international organizations, Government, NGOs, communities, consumers and individuals are must to find the possible solutions.
Better land-use planning to ensure that both humans and animals get the space that they may need.
Increasing forest cover is now reduced to 17 percent according to the recent research though as per the norm forest cover should be 33 percent of the total land area of the country.
Compensation or insurance for animal-induced damage is another widely accepted solution through government.
Field based solutions can limit the damage done both to humans and human property, and to wildlife, by preventing wildlife from entering fields or villages.

Incorporating information regarding human-wildlife conflicts into educational curriculum
Other than these solutions:
-         Raising awareness
-         Access prevention
-         Translocation of the animal

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Author is the Education Officer at Conservation Education Centre. She had her PhD in ornithology and work as guest writer for various magazines, newspapers and online portal.
You may reach her at m.singh@bnhs.org 


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Ruddy Mongoose at Asola Lake