Late on July 8, on the fringes of Bandipur National Park, a farmer in Shivapura village heard noises from his livestock shed. Moments later, he spotted a black panther holding a calf by its neck. Seeing the gathering crowd, the leopard ran away, leaving behind its victim. There was no anger nor were there calls for retribution.
Instead, a toll-free number was dialled and within a day, the forms for compensation had been filled. The farmer’s call was the 10,000th claim made to Wild Seve, a Wildlife Conservation Society initiative that was launched in July 2015 to ease the process of claiming compensation from authorities.
The free calling and open source text-messaging portal is available to nearly 600 villages in and around Bandipur and Nagarahole National Parks in Southern Karnataka. As anthropogenic pressures increase, so do man-animal conflicts — which often manifest as retributory killings of wild animals or anger against the Forest Department. The Karnataka Forest Department figures show that nearly 67,660 cases of crop-loss compensation (totalling to over ₹27.84 crore) were paid in the past three years.
“We found that many were not filing for compensation because of the bureaucracy involved. We act as intermediaries in the process and build goodwill between the villagers and the department. Our staff, who are spread out in the area, reach conflict areas within 24 hours nearly 98% of the time,” says Kriti Karanth, Associate Conservation Scientist, Asia, WCS.
Nearly 95% of the cases involve crop damage, with WCS having recorded 500 cases of livestock depredation and 40 cases of human death or injury. With the WCS staff themselves pursuing individual cases, the processing time for these compensation cases — which totalled to more than ₹1 crore and covered 5,685 families in the past three years — has dropped from nearly nine months to around two months now. Anecdotally, the interventions have led to improved attitudes towards conservation among those who live close to the tiger reserves, she says.