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Landscape approach key to conservation: expert

Kavita Kishore
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Animal-human conflict:Dr. Meenakshi Nagendran,(left) Programme Officer, United States Fish & Wildlife Service, and Dr. Ruth Defries, of Columbia University, at an international workshop at Pondicherry University on Monday. —Photo: G. Krishnaswamy
Animal-human conflict:Dr. Meenakshi Nagendran,(left) Programme Officer, United States Fish & Wildlife Service, and Dr. Ruth Defries, of Columbia University, at an international workshop at Pondicherry University on Monday. —Photo: G. Krishnaswamy

In a human-dominated landscape like India with ever increasing instances of man-animal conflict, landscape approach could provide viable conservation options, said Prof. Ruth Defries of Columbia University.

There are a number of different needs that the landscapes fulfil. There is the global problem of watershed, as well as the problems of conservation, habitat for biodiversity and even carbon storage. There are also a number of local problems that include the needs of the people whether it is for firewood or livelihood, said Ms. Defries, the Denning Family Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia. The local needs often trump the larger issues like habitat or carbon storage, so there is a need to balance the two. In a humans-dominated landscape like in India, many functions of the landscape — food production for local subsistence, firewood collection, livestock grazing, tourism, wildlife habitat and agriculture — overlap and compete. In these cases, the landscape approach could provide viable conservation options, she said.

She was delivering the keynote address at the international workshop on ‘Land use optimisation for coordinating regional development with the conservation of endangered species’ here on Monday. On the positive side, she said there has been a steady increase in the land under protection since the 1980s. “The main focus now is to ensure that the areas that come under protection are effectively managed, so that the protection itself is successful.” In her address, Meenakshi Nagendran, Programme Officer of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, said the world there has been a steep rise in elephant-human conflict over the past decade. One of the main problems that has caused the problem is an increase in human population. A rise of economies is another reason that has compounded the issue.

In elephant-human conflict, the changing landscapes, legally and illegally conducted agriculture (abetting the forest reserves), and even the loss of forage for herbivores play an important role, she said. These conflicts cause loss of property, human lives and even elephant lives. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of elephants killed by trains. Although these issues keep cropping up, it is difficult to find a proper solution to them without proper leadership, she said.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service helps by providing grants for people to study conservation methods in various areas including elephant-human conflicts, she added.

The two-day conference was organised by the Department of Ecology and Environment Science, in association with the US Fish and Wildlife Services, Indo-US Science and Technology Forum, French Institute of Pondicherry and World Wildlife Fund.

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