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Human-Animal Conflict- an Analysis

Context:

A recent research shows man-frog conflict in the Andaman Islands

Man-Animal Conflict

Human-wildlife conflict refers to interaction between wild animals and people and resultant negative impact on people or their resources, or wild animals or their habitat.

Statistics

  1. According to data from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, conflict with wild animals (mostly elephants and tigers), has killed more than 1,100 people across India between 2014 and 2017
  2. During the period, 1,052 lives were lost to elephants. Among states, West Bengal led the list with 266 deaths (25%) and was followed by Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh
  3. 92 people died in tiger attacks. Of these, 32 were in West Bengal alone, followed by Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh

Causes of Man-Animal conflict:

  1. Due to habitat fragmentation and shrinking of habitat due to encroachment in forest lands, people and animals are increasingly coming into conflict over living space and food.
  2. 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.
  3. Increased disturbance due to collection of fuel wood, fodder, water etc. from the forests has also increased the incidences of man-animal conflict
  4. Increase in area under cultivation around wildlife habitats and changed cropping pattern have also contributed to increased man-animal conflict.
  5. Decreased prey base caused by poaching of herbivores has resulted in carnivores moving out of forest in search of prey
  6. Increasing livestock population: Domestic animals often outnumber wild ungulates within protected areas. Livestock has become an important source of prey for predators
  7. Climate Change and its effect through drought, floods, forest fires, destruction of habitat and food will aggravate the problem of human-animal conflict

Impact of Man-Animal Conflict

  1. Loss of life, injury to humans and/or animals
  2. Crop damage
  3. Loss of livestock
  4. Damage to human property
  5. Disruption to daily life

Case-Studies:

Tiger-Human Conflict- Pilbhit Tiger reserve

There were several cases of human-tiger and human-leopard conflicts Pilibhit Tiger reserve, leading to the death of at least 6 humans in 2018. The main reasons which have increased the potential of human-wildlife conflicts are:

  • Human population living within five kms of the forests’ edge
  • Extensive sugarcane cultivation
  • High dependence of locals on forest resources
  • Increased logging activities for timber

Man-Frog Conflict in Andaman Islands

  • The Indian bullfrog has entered the Andaman Islands as an invasive alien species.
  • The 2004 tsunami had led to depletion of fish stock in the Bay of Bengal that resulted in losses for fishermen in Andaman.Thus import of fish seed was encouraged as a boost to livelihoods.
  • Scientists speculate that the frog species could have come along with the imported fish seeds.
  • Increasing population of bullfrogs in Andaman has threatened the biodiversity and livelihoods of locals by preying on their fish and chicken.

Government Initiatives:

  1. Provisions under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 empower concerned authorities take necessary steps to handle problematic wild animals.
  2. Standard Operating Procedures for management of major problematic animals like tiger, elephant, leopard, rhino etc are being used by the respective state governments.
  3. Construction of physical barriers, such as barbed wire fence, solar powered electric fence, bio-fencing using cactus, boundary wall etc. to prevent the entry of wild animals into crop field.
  4. Improvement of wildlife habitats by augmenting the availability of food and water in forest areas to reduce the entry of animals from forest to human habitations
  5. A network of Protected Areas namely viz., national park, Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserving covering important wildlife habitat have been created all over the country under the provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 to conserve wild animals and their habitat.
  6. Wildlife corridors have been developed in many parts of the country. For example: In 2017, to protect elephant habitats, the Odhisa government had identified 14 corridors.
  7. Draft national wildlife action plan (NWAP) 2017-31: Suggestions in the plan include:
  • The environment ministry ensure that developmental projects do not increase conflicts
  • Use of traditional knowledge to tackle conflicts,
  • National surveys to collect data on wildlife-human conflict
  • formation of a trained workforce for forest departments to tackle conflicts

  1. In January 2018, the Environment Ministry has approved “immune-contraception” method to address man-animal conflicts. The immuno-contraception is non-hormonal form of contraception. It causes production of antibodies which in turn prevents pregnancy. sanctioned over Rs 10 crore for ‘immunology contraception’ of wild boars, Rhesus monkeys and elephants
  2. Draft National Forest Policy, 2017:
  • Short-term actions include quick response, dedicated teams of well equipped and trained personnel, mobility, strong interface with health and veterinary services, rescue centres, objective and speedy assessment of damage and quick payment of relief to the victims.
  • Long term actions include monitoring and management of population of wildlife.
  1. Recently, the Centre and West Bengal government have finalised a plan for setting up a Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) mitigation project

Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change Guidelines on Man-Animal conflict

  1. Wild Life Rescue Teams equipped with adequate personnel, equipments and communication systems should be present in potential areas of human-animal conflict.
  2. There should be proper rescue mechanisms for human and/or animal victim of conflicts
  3. Local volunteers should be trained to handle with human-wildlife conflicts and organise locals for immediate initial steps till wildlife rescue team arrives
  4. Awareness campaign for encouraging conservation friendly practices, cultivation of suitable species which do not attract wildlife
  5. Identifying regular movements corridors of large wildlife, and adequate publicity/awareness to avoid disturbances
  6. Compilation of data on conflicts, reasons for such conflicts, best practices of response.
  7. Help locals in constructing barriers, and develop scaring away methods
  8. Insurance programs for damage due to wildlife

Best International Practice:

The Human Elephant Mitigation Conflict project, Hwange National Park (Zimbabwe) and Makgadikgadi NP in Botswana

The project encompasses the following:

  • Improve livelihoods of the communities through reducing Human wildlife Conflict incidents
  • Ensure wildlife management in the buffer zone of Hwange National Park.
  • Monitor and record conflict incidents and damages caused
  • Help communities develop skills and use on measures such as the Chilli Gun (Bomber) as a deterrent to scare away elephants

Best Practice in India:

SMS Alert System in Kerala

  • Amobile App, called Wild Watch has been developed to mitigate man-animal. The system consists early warning system, public SMS alert, staff monitoring and management, fence integrity detection system and real-time monitoring.
  • In Wayanad and Munnar, there is an SMS alert system that provides early warning to farmers and locals about any incursion by elephant/tiger

Steps to be taken

  1. Since habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation are the root causes of the human-wildlife conflict, they need to be addressed to provide long-term solution to conflict
  2. Crop pattern needs to be checked. Crops like sugarcane, Banana, should not be allowed to be grown near forest areas. These crops attract wildlife for food as well as good hiding place.
  3. Good standards of waste management are important to avoid attracting wild animals to human settlements and to prevent animals being artificially sustained by human induced food availability.
  4. The population of wild ungulates, namely hares and the wild boars should be increased as these act as prey for wild carnivores
  5. Forest corridors linking protected areas must be maintained where they exist, or created where they don’t. Other measures such as swift delivery of compensation for livestock loss, property damage, or life lost due to conflict are important, but they are not long-term solutions
  6. Communities should be incentivised for not to harm wild animals that pass through their lands. For this it is important to provide quick compensation, insurance for any economic loss
  7. Capacity development of forest officials is important. Fully equipped quick response team should be deployed as when conflicts arise
  8. Relocation of local communities to areas offering better access to natural resources and socio-economic opportunities is an important measure to negate potential human-wildlife conflicts
  9. Education and training activities at different levels should be taken up for disseminating innovative techniques, building local capacity in conflict resolution and increasing public understanding of man-animal conflicts
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