02 July 2019


The high cost of man-animal conflict:

By Aspire IAS

The high cost of man-animal conflict:

Theme: Man-Animal conflict


If a wild elephant tramples rice fields, the government will provide compensation for the loss. Though it sounds simple, there are several inconsistencies in compensation awarded for human-wildlife conflict —ranging from crop loss to human death — across the country, finds a study published in Biological Conservation, an international journal on conservation science.

What is Man-animal conflict:

  • It refers to the interaction between wild animals and humans which results in negative impact on people or their resources, or wild animals or their habitat.
  • It occurs when growing human populations overlap with established wildlife territory, creating reduction of resources for some people or wild animals.
  • Some examples of human-wildlife conflict include:
  1. Damage to the agriculture crop and property
  2. Killing of livestock and human beings by wildlife
  3. Flooding caused by beavers Birds nesting in undesirable residential locations
  4. Vehicle/wildlife collisions

Causes of Increasing Man-Animal Conflicts:

•  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.

• Urbanisation and increasing population - The primary reason for the increasing interaction is urbanisation. Human settlements expanding into established wildlife territories lead to conflict over not only space, but also food.

•  Habitat Fragmentation and shrinking - This give rise to shrinking of space, food etc. 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. This habitat fragmentation may be result of many reasons, for example, Construction of roads especially big Highways and canals passing through dense jungles and the big mines.

•  Land Use Transformation - Humans encroach on clear large areas of protected forest patches for development of agricultural and horticultural lands. Developmental activities such as hydroelectric projects also result in submergence of nearby forests and fragmentation of habitat.

•  Monoculture of teak in the large scale forest plantations raised by the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd (FDCM) has also adversely affected the wildlife habitat value of the forest areas.

•   Infestation of wildlife habitat by the invasive exotic weeds like Lantana, Eupatorium and Parthenium have resulted in decreased availability of edible grasses for the wild herbivores. As a result, herbivores come out of forest area and cause depredation of agricultural crops on the fringes.

•    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.

•    Increased disturbance due to collection of fuel wood, fodder, NTFPs, water etc. from the forests has also increased the incidences of man-animal conflict.

•    Road Kill - India's road network is expanding at a large scale due to the expanding economy and increase in vehicular traffic. Some of this road network is being expanded through protected areas. Apart from fragmentation, roads are becoming a serious threat to wildlife as several wild animals are killed on a daily basis by speeding vehicles.

•    Livestock Grazing - Livestock grazing in forests leads to human-wildlife conflict as carnivores are attracted towards the easy prey and become direct enemies of livestock graziers.

•    Presence of a large number of animals and birds outside the notified protected areas.

•    Sometimes the wild animals and human come in sudden contact and out of fear of each other, they harm each other accidently.

Results of Human Wildlife Conflict:

  • Crop Damage, Animal Deaths, Loss of Human Life, Injuries to People,Injuries to Wildlife, Livestock Depredation.
  • Farmers suffers losses of livestock and crop loss.
  • when a house head of the family is killed or injuried, the burden of the family passes on to the women and children.
  • A study in North east found that when men were or injured, it led to increased debts and poverty.

Mitigation measures of Man- Animal Conflict:

  • To control poaching: Poaching of wild animals should be stopped so that the no of wild animals can stabilize at its carrying capacity which would reach equilibrium in the ecosystem and this equilibrium between the numbers of prey animals and predators in the forest ecosystem would be maintained.
  • To undertake SMC works in the habitat: To stop soil erosion and to increase water availability in the forests, soil and moisture conservation measures (SMC) like vegetative checks dams, loose boulder check-dams, cement plugs, nala bunding, water tanks, should be taken in the forest so that water regime of the forest is increased in a natural way which will increase the productivity of the forests as well as water availability in the habitat. Then the sufficient food and water for wild life will be available and the number of animals straying out of forest will be controlled.
  • To stop monoculture and increase number of edibles miscellaneous species: Plant monoculture of species like teak should be avoided. Instead mixed plantations of miscellaneous, bamboo and fruit species can be considered. This will provide more food for animals in the forest, hiding shelter to animals as well as provide food for most herbivores.
  • Stop fragmentation of wildlife habitat and wildlife corridors: While going for construction of dams, long canals for irrigation and Highways through the forest areas, the fragmentation of wildlife habitat should be avoided and proper care should be taken so that the connectivity through wildlife corridors is not disturbed. Animals cannot pass these canals and roads easily and they are localized and their natural balance is disturbed. Big mines can also fragment the habitat hence to be avoided. The corridors of wildlife joining one habitat with nearby habitat which is essential for their sustenance should be maintained.
  • Providing LPG to villagers: LPG should be provided to those villagers who frequently go to the forest areas specially wildlife habitats to fetch fuel wood for their chullahs so that they may stop penetrating into forest and stop inviting Man- Animal Conflicts. These people are most vulnerable to Man-Animal Conflicts. Maharashtra Forest Department has started in big way to distribute LPG to villagers residing on the fringes under Joint Forest Management Program and Village Eco-development Program which will go a long way simultaneously to conserve forests and wildlife o and to reduce man animal conflicts.
  • Awareness Raising: People should be made more and more aware through meetings and pamphlets etc. that they should avoid going deep into the forest areas. If they have to go in any case they should go in groups and they should keep talking to each other to detract the wild animals. School children in vulnerable villages should be educated about the importance of wildlife and human co-existence with it.
  • Solar Fencing around agriculture fields: Agriculture fields situated near wildlife habitat/forest areas can be protected by stone fencing or solar fencing. Solar fencing has been tried with quite good effect in Wardha District of Maharashtra. The District Planning and Development committee is ready to give financial support to the farmers for erecting solar fencing.
  • Controlling crop pattern: Crops like sugarcane, Banana, Bajra, tuhar should not be allowed to be grown near forest areas. These crops attract wildlife for food as well as good hiding place.
  • Paying Ex-gratia/Compensation to the people: Ex-gratia /compensation should be paid promptly to the victims of wildlife attack so that the people will not become enemy of the wild animals. Otherwise people tend to take revenge from the wild animals by killing them by poison, trap, hacking or shooting as has been noticed in many cases.
  • Relocation/Rehabilitation of problematic and disadvantaged wild animal: If a wild animal like tiger, panther, or bear has become disadvantaged or problematic, this fact to be doubly confirmed and then only such animal should be caught either by tranquilization or by trapping cages, safely. Then it should be relocated in suitable habitat or be kept in a zoo or rescue centers for all its remaining life. However, it is not advisable to keep the stressed problematic animal to be released near the problem area where people may harm that animal. It is better to relocate this kind of animals by following the prescribed protocols in this regard.
  • A robust and timely compensation scheme administered by the local community.

The Government has initiated a number of steps in this regard including the following:

  • Providing assistance to State Governments for improvement of habitat to augment food and water availability and to reduce movement of animals from the forests to the habitations.
  • Encouraging State Governments for creation of a network of Protected Areas and wildlife corridors for conservation of wildlife.
  • Awareness programmes to sensitize the people about the Do’s and Don’ts to minimize conflicts.
  • Training programmes for forest staff and police to address the problems of human-wildlife conflicts.
  • Issuance of guidelines to the State Governments for management of human-leopard conflict.
  • Providing technical and financial support for development of necessary infrastructure and support facilities for immobilization of problematic animals through tranquilization, their translocation to the rescue centres or release back to the natural habitats.
  • Providing assistance to State Governments for construction of boundary walls and solar fences around the sensitive areas to prevent the wild animal attacks.
  • Supplementing State Government resources for payment of ex-gratia to the people for injuries and loss of life in case of wild animal attacks.
  • Empowering the Chief Wildlife Warden of the State/Union Territories to permit hunting of such problematic animals under the provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Providing assistance to the State Governments for eco-development activities in villages around Protected Areas to elicit cooperation of local community in management of the Protected Areas.
  • Encouraging and supporting involvement of the research and academic institutions and leading voluntary organizations having expertise in managing human -wildlife conflict situations.
  • Some devices of Information Technology, viz., radio collars with Very High Frequency, Global Positioning System and Satellite uplink facilities, are being used by the research institutions including Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, State Forest Departments and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to monitor the movement of Lions, Tigers, Elephants, Olive Ridley Turtles, and other wild animals to understand their movements and their use pattern of the habitat.  
  • Assistance Provided by MoEFCC to Mitigate Man-Animal conflicts
  1. Under various Centrally Sponsored Schemes, MoEF has been providing financial and technical assistance to the State/UT Governments for the conservation and management of wildlife including for activities aimed at mitigating man-animal conflicts.
  2. Such activities include the creation of appropriate animal barriers ( solar, barbed wire and chain link fencing, trenches, walls etc.).
  • In 2015, Centre eases process to declare wildlife vermin: Increasing man-animals conflict that causes damage to crops and other human property has led the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) to ask states to send proposals to declare wild animals vermin for specified period in a given area. Once declared vermin, that particular species can be hunted or culled without restriction. The new advisory will apply to not only nilgais and wild boars that destroy crops but also to animals like wild dogs, chitals, sambars, langurs, and many species of birds that damage crops. MoEFCC has asked states to send proposals to declare wild animals or herds of them as vermin if they have become dangerous to human life or property, or if they have become so disabled or diseased as to be beyond recovery. While declaring animals as vermin, officials will not have to give any justification to hunt them as is the case with Schedule I animals like tigers and leopards.
  • The National Wildlife Action Plan (2017-2031) calls to make people an intrinsic part of the process to check rising human-animal conflict. It recommends following measures:
  • Identify and document the wide range of wildlife species that regularly come into conflict with humans, and prioritise the species that cause maximum damage to humans and are most adversely impacted due to conflict.
  • Wildlife corridors should be identified, recognized, established and maintained to reduce conflict.
  • Develop a national level database to document frequencies of conflicts, quantum of damage to human life and property and wildlife deaths due to conflict.
  • Draw up comprehensive, species and region specific, conflict-mitigation plans based on scientific management of wildlife populations as well as land-use practices that aid and abet HWC.
  • Establish a Land-use Practices Assessment and Planning Committee to identify the various land-use practices that promote HWC and develop more pragmatic land-use practices.
  • Constitute a well-trained and adequately equipped workforce in the State Forest Departments (SFDs) to actively address HWC situations in situ, especially those involving dangerous large mammals.
  • Create a Centre of Excellence (CoE) on HWC mitigation, under the aegis of the MoEFCC, to address, develop and implement long-term and shortterm measures to reduce the adverse impacts of HWC.
  • Formulate and implement extensive education and awareness programmes to reduce the growing animosity among people towards wild animals involved in conflict situations, as well as to enlist their help in mitigating HWC.
  • Constitute a network of Primary Response Teams (PRTs) consisting of local community persons which address conflict situations in situ and form a bridge between the larger community and the SFD.
  • Identify, validate and support Indigenous Traditional Knowledge (ITK) available in various parts of the country for dealing with the HWC.
  • Ensure that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of developmental projects takes into consideration potential wildlife-human conflict spinoffs that large landscape level land-use practices or alterations can cause.

What recent Five year study says :

  • Scientists at Bengaluru’s Centre for Wildlife Studies, who analysed cases of compensation for crop raiding, livestock loss and human injury and death reported to the government between 2010 to 2015, find that wildlife that caused losses in 29 States included elephants that raid crop fields, tigers and leopards that preyed on cows and goats, and other species ranging from crocodiles to monkeys that cause injury and property damage. Twenty-two States compensated people for crop loss.
  • While a majority of the States awarded compensation for loss of livestock, human injury and death, only 18 (62%) did so for property damage. The complete data for 18 States in 2012-2013 alone reveals that people reported a total of 78,656 cases, for which payments totalled to about ? 38 crore.
  • Yet, even these numbers are an underestimate of the extent of conflict: many people do not report their losses, some States lack compensation policies, and the team did not have access to the five-year compensation details of 11 other States.
  • When the team compared the compensation patterns in detail, they found that despite a significant mandate to address human-wildlife conflict, there exist numerous inconsistencies in eligibility, application, assessment, implementation and payment procedures across States.
  • For instance, although the majority of claims countrywide were related to crop loss, seven States — including Gujarat and Rajasthan — still do not provide crop compensation.
  • The ramifications of losses in arid States where farmers rely on just a single crop for survival would be high. Such discrepancies in eligibility and procedure, by promoting selective tolerance and protection of wildlife, could be detrimental to conservation efforts.

Way Forward:

  • The solutions are often specific to the species or area concerned, and are often creative and simple. Solutions should lead to mutually beneficial co-existence.
  • Apart from the above mentioned measures, the WWF report ‘Common Ground’ identifies themes that can be used to compose a common ground or a basic list of available and tested solutions.
  • Policies must be standardised across State lines in a manner equitable to both citizens and wildlife.
  • Empowering people to cope with their losses is needed if we are to see global conservation icons such as elephants and tigers thrive amidst people.