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Updated: August 24, 2013 10:44 IST

More compensation fosters better coexistence with wildlife

Krithi Karanth
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CONSTANT BATTLE: The carcass of a leopard, suspected to have been poisoned, that was recovered from a tea estate in Darjeeling, West Bengal. Photo: Sanjay Sah
The Hindu CONSTANT BATTLE: The carcass of a leopard, suspected to have been poisoned, that was recovered from a tea estate in Darjeeling, West Bengal. Photo: Sanjay Sah

Land protection measures are ineffective as human-animal conflict is inevitable

Dealing with large charismatic animals that raid crops, kill livestock, injure or kill people requires improved processing of claims filed by affected people. More than 1,00,000 incidents of conflict were claimed in Karnataka between 2000-2010. These claims perhaps represent a small fraction of actual incidents. The picture that emerges is that human-wildlife conflict in India is relatively common and often tolerated by people who are only partially compensated for losses.

How do we deal with losses to wildlife? Are sustained crop and livestock losses less problematic or worrisome than human injuries or death? Does an elephant or tiger or leopard incident require more attention than losses owing to a jackal or pig incident? How do we address losses when there are such a wide array of animals and crops involved?

People and wildlife commonly co-habit in India, particularly on the fringes of many of our parks and sanctuaries. Households farming and living in close proximity to these “hard-edges” are more vulnerable to losses. Should we focus our limited conservation resources on these most vulnerable people and places? Perhaps as a necessary first step, these households close to our parks need better access to insurance schemes and efficient filing of their compensation claims.

Silently borne

Recent scientific studies conducted by me and other scientists surveyed almost 2,000 households in Karnataka and 735 households in Madhya Pradesh living around six tiger reserves. In Karnataka, we found 64 per cent of households reported crop losses and 15 per cent reported livestock losses. In Madhya Pradesh, we found 73 per cent reported crop losses and 33 per cent reported livestock losses. Remarkably, the government compensated only 31 per cent of households in Karnataka and 22 per cent in M.P. with most losses going unreported and silently borne.

Our research efforts highlighted some key differences — the most common crop raiders were different in the two States (pig and elephant in Karnataka compared to pig, chital and langur in M.P.), while livestock predators were similar (tiger and leopard in both places along with wolf and jackal in M.P.). Overall, many more animals were reported in M.P. compared to Karnataka. This suggests that establishing an insurance scheme targeted at specific species may perhaps be easier in Karnataka. We also found the administrative buffer surrounding the park in M.P. improved access to compensation for local people and perhaps we need to establish similar buffers around parks in Karnataka.

Stark reality

The reality is that some level of interaction and conflict will always occur when you have people and wildlife sharing space and resources. Identifying what mitigation measures might lower conflict is also important. Our work in Karnataka and M.P. suggested that although people tried many different ways including fences, using scare devices, guard animals to protect their land, property and livestock, these measures were quite ineffective. Therefore, insurance and compensation may prove more effective in dealing with conflict than large-scale investments in fences, trenches and other practices deployed by individuals, government and non-governmental agencies.

Fortunately, the financial resources to establish insurance and compensation schemes do exist. It is not a matter of raising more money. Rather, the question is how we could reach out to thousands of villages that abut our wild landscapes. We also have the technology to establish cell-phone-based early warning systems that have proven effective in saving human lives and lowering confrontations with wildlife in India and Africa. For those of us living in cities and enchanted with tigers, leopards or elephants our demands that local people “tolerate” losses must be accompanied with concrete supportive actions that minimise their losses. Clearly, the wildlife losses must be borne by larger society and not just people living next to wildlife.

(The writer is a conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Centre for Wildlife Studies.)

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I have not yet read the paper but the work seems interesting.
However, I found the authors comment, "these measures were quite
ineffective" when talking about preventative mitigation measures to
be extremely dismissive of the many cases where such measures
(fencing, guard dogs, improved husbandry, have proven to be very
effective. It smacks somewhat of agenda-pushing.

from:  Gareth Goldthorpe
Posted on: Aug 26, 2013 at 11:38 IST

I have a suspect,that the livestock or Crop damages are caused due to
lack of food to the animals within the allocated space. Or does the
animals remember that in-spite of going long in search of food, if we
move to place where people live, we can get food for sure ?

from:  Assan
Posted on: Aug 24, 2013 at 11:15 IST

Surely something to think upon.

from:  Sijin Alexander
Posted on: Aug 24, 2013 at 08:08 IST

Core issue is human population explosion. Until we take serious steps in containing it, we remain as a serious threat to nature. Talking of co-existence is just evading the core issue.

from:  Senthil Natarajan
Posted on: Aug 24, 2013 at 06:23 IST

I am grateful to Krithi Karanth for sharing her research and views on this important subject. Some sort of Insurance Scheme that will pay people who live in or close to wild life reserves in case of losses occuring from the incidences described in the article sounds eminently sensible. Hopefully, both the private and public insurance companies would study the idea and consider setting up a scheme. I would hope that Ms. Karanth and her colleagues will continue to work on and develop their ideas further. Something along the lines proposed by them is much needed.

from:  Hshiar Singh
Posted on: Aug 24, 2013 at 03:36 IST
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