Ecology and Environment

Rise in Man-Animal Conflict

  • According to the Ministry of Environment, 1,144 people were killed by tigers or elephants between April 2014 and February 2017 – that’s more than one human every day.
  • While most of these incidents are accidents, unchecked escalation of such conflicts does not benefit the cause of conservation. If people who live around forest areas see wildlife as a threat, we lose crucial local support in species conservation.

 Indian scenario

  • India is a mega-diverse country owing to its large climatic and topographic gradient. With only 2.4% of the world’s land area, it harbors around 8% of all recorded species.
  • The protection of forests and wild life by the State has been mandated by the Indian Constitution through its article 48A of part IV as Directive principles and as citizens of India it is also one of our fundamental duties as laid down by the Constitution of India in article 51A of part IVA.

 Causes of Man-Animal Conflicts:

  • Habitat fragmentation and shrinking of habitat: It give rise to shrinking of space, food etc as a result of Construction of roads especially big Highways and canals passing through dense jungles and the big mines in the forest which is required for the wild animals which result in animals stray out of habitat in search of food, water or shelter.
  • Encroachment in the forest lands by local people: Has resulted in shrinkage of wildlife habitats especially on the fringes which has increased the pressure on the limited natural resources in the forest areas.
  • Increased disturbance: Due to collection of fuel wood, fodder, NTFPs, water etc. from the forests has also increased the incidences of man-animal conflict.
  • Increase in area under cultivation and changed cropping pattern: Contributed to increased man-animal conflict. People have started growing commercial crops like sugarcane and banana, which provide good hiding place for the wild animals like wild boar, sloth bear and panther.
  • Water scarcity: Most incidences of man-animal conflicts are noticed during summer when water becomes scarce. The livestock and wild animals have to share the limited water sources on the fringes or inside forest.
  • Decreased prey base: Caused by poaching of herbivores has resulted in carnivores moving out of forest in search of prey and indulge in cattle lifting.
  • Growing Interest in Eco-tourism and Increasing Access to Nature Reserves: Recreational activities and growing public interest in charismatic species such as large carnivores and endangered species have increased the human presence in protected areas and raised concern about capacities to manage and regulate public access and large-scale use of protected area

The major outcomes of human-wildlife conflicts:

  • Injury and loss of life of humans and wildlife
  • Crop damage, livestock depredation, predation of managed wildlife stock.
  • Damage to human property.
  • Tropic cascades.Trophic cascade, an ecological phenomenon triggered by the addition or removal of top predators and involving reciprocal changes in the relative populations of predator and prey through a food chain, which often results in dramatic changes in ecosystem structure and nutrient cycling.
  • Destruction of habitat.
  • Collapse of wildlife populations and reduction of geographic ranges.

 

How to reduce Man-Animal Conflict

 

The man-animal conflict in India is an outcome of the diminishing area of forests, increasing human population combined with human interference in natural habitats and a shortage of food for wild animals. Due consideration should be given to the following points while tackling man-carnivore conflicts:

 

  • Habitat Restoration: As a result of the growing human population, changing land use practices and resultant anthropogenic pressures, forest cover has either decreased or declined in quality due to habitat degradation. Avoiding deforestation and planting new trees in forest areas can help a lot in reducing conflict rate in the long run.
  • Organizing awareness programs: Though locals were living with wildlife for ages, their knowledge about the behavior and ecology of wild animals is remarkably poor. So government and nongovernment organizations must come forward for organizing awareness programs. Education and training activities will help in creating tolerance towards wild animals.
  • Do not disturb or irritate wild animals: Wild carnivores usually unleash terror as retaliatory and defensive action when provoked by local inhabitants outside their natural habitats. People should, therefore, avoid irritating animals outside their habitats.
  • Law enforcement: Appropriate legal measures should be enforced in order to protect natural habitats against illegal exploitation and to avoid human interferences in such areas.
  • More protected forests: Demarcating more areas as forest reserves are crucial to reducing conflict.
  • However, the expansion of protected forests means more people have to be displaced. Already, claims for loss of crop, cattle or life are not settled quickly enough, leading to humans poisoning wild animals to avoid deprivation. Forest expansion is only possible in a peaceful manner if the government plays an active part.
  • Research and awareness: Constant monitoring and research on animal behavior and patterns can help reduce human-wildlife conflict. A two-year study of elephant territory in Karnataka found that by carefully planning clear-felling of single-crop plantations, one can reduce the chances of elephant-human conflict.

Steps taken by Central Government to mitigate the Man-Animal conflict:

  • Project Tiger and Project Elephant: Under centrally sponsored schemes, financial assistance is provided to the State Governments for improvement of forest and wildlife areas like the national parks and sanctuaries to augment food and water availability in forests which can reduce migration of animals from forests to the habitations.
  • Construction of barriers like boundary walls and solar-powered electric fences around the sensitive areas to prevent the wild animal attacks.
  • Development of necessary infrastructure and support facilities for immobilization of the identified problematic animals through tranquilization, and their relocation to the natural habitat or rehabilitation in rescue centers
  • The Chief Wildlife Wardens of the States/Union Territories are empowered to permit hunting of problematic animals under the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  • Eco-development activities are undertaken in villages around Protected Areas to elicit the cooperation of communities in management of the Protected Areas

Way Forward:

  • Along with conservation education program, the conflict has to be studied properly to develop a management plan for the mitigation of human-elephant and human-leopard conflicts in India.
  • The creation of mobile rescue teams, training of wildlife staff in handling, tranquilizing and transporting wild bears and leopard is to be ensured.
  • The man-animal conflict in India has reached a point where conflict is leaving more casualties than before and has become a matter of concern for people as well as government.
  • Although this type of confrontation is not new to places girded by forests but never before had a number of beastly attacks and consequent deaths crossed a limited count. People generally get rid of conflict problem by killing wild animals, but it is not the ultimate solution. The conflict can be resolved by attitude, cooperation, and concerns of the local community.