Human-wildlife conflict among greatest threats to animal species: WWF and UNEP report

Source: Down to Earth

What is the news?

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), have released a new report titled – A future for all – the need for human-wildlife coexistence. 

Key findings

Conflict between humans and animals is one of the main threats to the long-term survival of some of the world’s most iconic species.

  • Human-wildlife conflict, in combination with other threats, has driven the significant decline of species that were once abundant and species that are naturally less abundant, have been pushed to the brink of extinction. Global wildlife populations have fallen an average of 68% since 1970
  • Such impact not limited just to wildlife. It would also affect humans who lived alongside wild animals, especially in developing countries rich in biodiversity. It could cause injury, death or loss of livelihood
  • Completely eradicating human-wildlife conflict was not possible. But well-planned, integrated approaches to managing it can reduce conflicts and lead to a form of coexistence between people and animals.
Findings wrt India
  • India will be most-affected by human-wildlife conflict, the report said. This was because it had the world’s second-largest human population as well as large populations of tigers, Asian elephants, one-horned rhinos, Asiatic lions and other species.
  • Human-Elephant conflict: India’s elephants probably reflect the scale of the problem the best. The animals are restricted to just 3-4% of their original habitat. Their remaining range is plagued by deforestation, invasive species and climate change.
    • The animals are thus pushed to find food outside of protected areas where they clash with humans. This, in turn, causes the deaths of humans as well as loss of livelihoods for their families. The report gave the example of Sonitpur district in Assam. Here, destruction of forests had forced elephants to raid crops, in turn causing deaths of both, elephants and humans.
  • In response, WWF India had developed the ‘Sonitpur Model’ during 2003-2004 by which community members were connected with the state forest department. They were given training on how to work with them to drive elephants away from crop fields safely.
  • WWF India had also developed a low-cost, single strand, non-lethal electric fence to ease the guarding of crops from elephants.
  • Such initiatives had brought dividends and helped in reducing crop losses to zero for four years running. Human and elephant deaths also reduced significantly.

Terms to know:

WWF

  • It is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961 to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.
  • HQ: Gland, Switzerland.
  • Its mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.
  • The Living Planet Report is published every 2 years by the World Wide Fund for Nature.
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