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Disentangling Human-Wildlife Conflict

Some imaginative solutions to tackle perilous confrontation and conflict between Men & Wildlife

Mugdha Singh
Publish Date: Jun 14 2016 11:51AM | Updated Date: Jun 14 2016 11:51AM

Disentangling Human-Wildlife Conflict

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.

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.

Conservationists and wildlife experts regularly raise the demand to transforms wildlife conservation and management efforts to create sustainable solutions for both, people and wildlife. “Such efforts must work in reconciliation of the human-wildlife relationships and with the endeavor to undermine successful conservation and management of wildlife which ensures that the solutions are socially, ecologically, and economically robust and sustainable,” said Dr Ashok Kumar Sinha, former member of Uttar Pradesh Wildlife Advisory Board.

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

Commenting on forest ridges Dr Sinha warned, “Wetlands and forest patches are being dried out and even barren lands are being filled with the concrete jungles. There isn't enough water or food for animals, forcing them to come inside the human boundaries. This is an alarming situation and should be tackled under the guidance of experts.”

Talking about the main reasons of conflict Zeeshan Malik, a biologists and wildlife expert from Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), remarked, “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 in the past decades,” he added.

Pointing out why such conflicts rise much frequently these days, Zeeshan said, “In many areas conflicts have been reported and experienced due to humans’ behavior like chasing animals away, hunting and poaching. Many recent reports also described that conflict happened wherein people went near these animals for sighting or photography.”

“It was seen that major reasons of conflicts are because of 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,” said a member of Forest Ministry on conditions of anonymity.

Talking to Policy Pulse he added, “Such competition is causing dwindling of wildlife. For example in NCR (National Capital Region) animals such as jungle cats, leopard, porcupines, nilgai are very common in this area. This belt is natural for these animals,” he added.

A nilgai recently had breached the high security area near Parliament which was soon rescued by the Wildlife SOS Rapid Response Unit from Rajpath. The large antelope is presumed to have strayed out of the Central Ridge, a forested patch located in the vicinity.

“The nilgai is the largest Asian antelope and it is endemic to the Indian subcontinent. Geeta Seshamani, co-founder of Wildlife SOS told Policy Pulse, “The nilgai strayed from its natural habitat and lost its way. We are glad that the animal is safe and unhurt. It is released back in the wild.”

Difficult to blame wildlife

It is difficult to blame wildlife for its conflict with humans, because the animals are simply, doing what animals do. On the other hand, if humans view wildlife as pests, as damaging to their livelihoods, or as a danger to their community or family, then wildlife is going to lose. The challenge for conservationists is to somehow change those attitudes by offering practical, workable and effective solutions.

Conflicts occur when wildlife—both native and introduced—impacts human infrastructure and economies. Recent examples occur after Uttarakhand forest fire when animals fled away from the damage that was caused by the inferno.

“The human-animal interaction becomes bad when both try to save their lives. During the forest fire when villagers trying to save their lives encountered the wild animals they didn’t have any hope and were forced to kill few animals,” said Bahar Rawat, researcher in Wildlife Life Institute of India.

“Generally these jungle people don’t harm the animals but during fire and floods it can turn out to be a question of life and death. And, thus, they do get in a battle. On the contrary in cities when leopard or some other animals shows up, they are killed without a thought,” Bahar added.

Talking about the problem, Bahar said, “I was there in Meerut when the tigress came in the city in search of her cubs and created panic in the town for more than a week. Such incidents happen because we don’t have any demarcated boundaries between humans and animals. Their habitats are being intruded by us every day, leaving them with no space and little option to survive.”

“Often the plight of urban wildlife is dismissed because city dwellers consider them to be a nuisance. There is a need to educate the public towards increased tolerance of the wildlife around and help them to coexist peacefully,” said Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-founder Wildlife SOS.

“The Ridge near Delhi from where the nilgai must have come out is not a contiguous stretch, but a series of disjointed forests. This means the animals cannot stay clustered in one area, and when they try to move around, the chances are that they come in the human vicinity,” explains Kartick.

“These conflicts impact both animals and humans and due to which human and wild animals’ mortality has been increasing of late. Human population facing such conflict considers these animals as their enemy and goes for hunting and poaching. This ultimately poses threat to wild animals and leads towards their extinction from these areas. Extinction of these wild animals from such PA leads to a loss of biodiversity,” reminds Zeeshan Malik.

Finding solutions

Expanding human-wildlife conflict to human–biodiversity conflict would not be problematic if all species are to be valued. 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,” said Dr Ashok Kumar Sinha.

“Through policies or management practices we need to reduce the rate of conflict. Good management policies are being practiced in many of the PA in India and many success stories have emerged in past decade,” Zeeshan argues.

“Some of the main practices are shifting human population from locality lying on periphery or near PA to alternate locality. Mass awareness campaigns and dedicating rescue teams especially to those areas where these conflicts frequently take place and shifting thrust to educating the value of biodiversity through non-formal education emphasizing to the hunters and poachers might reduce the confrontation among humans and animals,” he adds.

The work has also often led to people being more enthusiastic and supportive of conservation, and has demonstrated that people can live alongside wildlife while developing sustainable livelihoods. Finding common ground which can be used to compose a basic list of available and tested solutions these include:

Some Steps to Save Wildlife

United efforts by international organisations, 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.

Other than these solutions, a tool kit is also produced by bio-hub community which gave preventions to reduce the wildlife-human conflicts. This tool kit includes

- Awareness Raising
- Access prevention
- Translocation of the animal
- Driving animals away
- Lethal control

Tech based solutions

Technology based solutions are being maintained by many countries which includes tools and strategies to reduce wildlife damage. The future success of wildlife damage management depends on developing new tools and technologies. Traditional methods and tools face increased scrutiny by regulatory agencies.

- Demarcating Natural Habitat
- Finding common grounds for solution through spatial analysis
- Incorporating information regarding human-wildlife conflicts into educational curriculum

Noteworthy Groups

Below is the list of protection groups who are helping to tackle the problem.

1. The Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration
They have worked on issues as diverse as wolf and shark conservation, urban human-animal conflict situations, and the trafficking of elephants for their ivory.

2. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
The organisation specialises in rescuing wild animals who have been orphaned and to date, have hand-reared over 150 baby elephants through their Orphans’ Project. The Trust is also involved in a series of ongoing rhino and elephant conservation initiatives.

3. Born Free
Born Free is currently involved in addressing the cause and alleviating the effects of human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka. 

4. World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
WWF’s policy in the area of human-animal conflict states that the most effective responses to conflict situations should be tailored to each individual area, because “this is something on a case-by-case basis. 

5. The International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ)
The International Society for Anthrozoology is devoted to the scientific study of “human-animal interactions,” with an emphasis on promoting more harmonious relationships between the species.

6. Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
HSUS aims to provide members of the public information on how to interact safely and gently with the common species found in states.

7. Animal Rahat
Animal Rahat focuses on working animals such as bullocks, donkeys, and horses. They have also saved the lives of animals caught up in conflict situations with humans.