Human Wildlife Conflict

Human wildlife conflict in the emerging economies of the South is the very epitome of the conservation quotient. Its manifestations – taxman’s dilemma between tax payers’ claim to development and the pressure on conservation takes manifold forms: Traumatised elephants kill human encroachers, nursing sloth bears attack forest dwellers grievously, carnivores prey on cattle in carnivore territory, and if the human footprint on tiger terrain lacks accountability, too bad it is the endangered wildlife that will have to bear the cross, all the same.

Statistically speaking man eating tigers, wolves and leopards are comparatively fewer in the Subcontinent. Livestock lifting by carnivores like snow leopard, tigers, leopards, lions, are the primary cause of annihilation of wildlife. Consider this: 22 tigers were wiped off a protected Tiger Reserve – Sariska Tiger Reserve by 2005 barely three decades after late Indian Prime Minister

Mrs. Indira Gandhi took the initiative to protect the flagship / pyramid species the Royal Bengal Tiger. In Chickamagalur in 1996 four man eating carnivores – either tiger or leopard found themselves at the nostle of the hunters’ guns and 22 leopards were killed.

Crocodiles attack hand fishers often with fatal consequences for both Man and Beast in large parts of South, South East Asia, Australia and Africa. Shark attacks are increasing in the coastal waters off Australia, some attributing it to climate change, but the link thereof needs to be credibly established.

In South America venomous snakes in the Amazonian Basin, man eaters like Jaguar, Anaconda and Caimans are often in the news over human wildlife conflict thanks largely to human footprint in the Protected Areas… wildlife areas protected by law for the safety of wildlife. Chikungunya, Malaria, Filaria Yellow Fever and Dengue are also endemic to large parts of South Asia, Africa and South America.

Birds die at the merciless engines of aircraft endangering thousands of air passengers because aviation flight paths are not planned based on research of flight paths of feathered friends. Callous solid waste management attracts birds to scavenge on litter near airfields, endangering civil aviation.

Human development including plantations, dams, mining pits, highways, roads, hospitals, airports, all find real estate in tiger terrain despite documented opposition from the forest department and conservation activists. Yet the election savvy short-sighted political class denotifies Protected Areas in favour of human development. But the traumatised wildlife know not where to go - notification or denotification. Conflict manifests as bear attacks, elephant attacks, crocodile attacks, monkey bites (although rear), and snake bites.

Denotification of Protected Areas, translocation of traumatised separated endangered fauna, break up in gene pool of endangered wildlife, culling, killing, regularisation of human encroachment, denotification of PA legislation, all bear out in vicious attacks on man causing elimination of already endangered wildlife. Planning of development is crucial to mitigation of human wildlife conflict.

Later when the expected stress manifests as human wildlife conflict taking a toll on human life and psychology this very development lobby comprising of civil engineers, tourism entrepreneurs, businessmen enjoying the patronage of corrupt politicians have the sheer temerity to question the political, legislative and bureaucratic wisdom of enactment of conservation laws.

Increasing cropland eats away at the jungle homelands of endangered wildlife like elephants Gaur, wild dogs, Deer, wild boars, Nilgai / Blue Bull etc in India. When these wild animals feast on crops like sugar cane, paddy, fruit orchards etc it forces the farmer to pressurise the government to declare animals like wild boar or Blue Bull as vermin and culling begins.

Poachers gleefully secure hunting permits to cull problematic wildlife and in one instance alluded to earlier in this Editorial 22 leopards were killed by professional hunters including smoking a nursing leopardess and her cub in a cave in Chikmaglaur district in Karnataka in February 1996. The “license” was given to professional hunters and poachers (in the name of livelihood security) to hunt and kill an alleged / suspected man eating leopard which had killed four human beings within a span of six weeks in January – February 1996.

That the migrant railway labourers who were infected by a scourge abandoned the corpses near a under construction railway line triggering scavenging in healthy hunting animals was conveniently and intentionally ignored by the Administration to favour a corrupt few. That the Karnataka Forest Department’s then Principal Chief Wildlife Warden issued an Executive Order to kill a listed Schedule 1 pyramid species (in the powerful Wildlife Protection Act 1972) bespeaks of the lack of accountability. To this day there is no office copy of this Executive Order to kill a man eater because neither the executive order nor the declaration of the Leopard as Man Eater was official.

Spread of infections from cattle or dogs to wildlife like Gaur, wild dogs can decimate wildlife numbers. Bovine anthrax and Rinderpest has decimated thousands of Bos gaurus in India.

Either way it’s the lives of endangered wildlife that often pay the ultimate price for human wildlife conflict … problematic animals are simply culled. Migrating elephants are traumatised to find their ancient migrating corridors blocked by human development like roads and highways, tourist resorts, cropland; the human footprint takes to the skies, quite literally in soaring development indices.

The solution to human wildlife conflict lies in eliminating the source of the scourge: human footprint. Simplistic or challenging it maybe, but in honour to save the endangered wildlife it is necessary. Sustainable alternatives need to be found and propagated.

Tags: human wildlife conflict, climate change, climate change adaptation, wildlife,

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