Human-wildlife conflict in the State is on the rise and has become graver with the intrusion of people into wildlife habitats and subsequent changes in land use pattern, according to an expert committee report submitted to the Kerala Forests and Wildlife Department.
The report says that about 400 people annually die in India in human-wildlife conflicts. This is besides the damage caused to thousands of acres of crops and the unmeasured psychological stress on the affected community. A number of wildlife species, especially elephants, tigers, and leopards, are also killed in retaliation. The report was submitted by a team comprising P.S. Easa, member of the National Board for Wildlife, S. Raju, and Giji K. Joseph.
A study conducted as part of an Indo-Norwegian project carried out by the Wildlife Institute of India during 2007-2011 has reported 888 human deaths and 7,381 human injury cases owing to human-wildlife conflicts during the period. As many as 14,144 cases of livestock kill and about 80,956 cases of crop damage for which an ex gratia payment of about ₹137.40 million has been disbursed during the period, the report said.
The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change has recorded 98 human deaths due to tiger attack from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2017. As per the report, the number of human deaths due to elephant attacks from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2016 was 2,804.
Dr. Easa said human-animal conflict had become a serious wildlife management problem in Kerala too. A total of 269 persons were killed and 505 people were injured in various human-wildlife conflicts during 2002-2012.
“Within developmentalist attitude, the conflict between human life and wildlife is bound to take place and the only solution is mitigation of the conflict with effective people’s participation,” Dr. Easa said. Of late, people have started complaining about monkeys and peafowls too.
Dr. Easa said that the Kerala Forests and Wildlife Department had taken certain steps such as erecting solar-powered fences, elephant-proof walls, digging trenches, etc. to mitigate the problem. The report cites several reasons for the human-wildlife conflict situations. Animals, especially elephants, when crammed into smaller areas by habitat loss and poaching could end up in crop-raiding in the surrounding areas.
Other reasons attributed to conflict situations are creation of abundant secondary vegetation due to human activities in the forest fringes attracting elephants; artificially maintained water sources during drought; and blocking of the traditional movement paths.
The State government has initiated a fencing project along the forest boundaries with financial assistance from tje Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB). The first phase of the project will be implemented in Thiruvananthapuram, Thenmala, Punalur, Palakkad, Mannarkad, Nilambur South, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, and Wayanad North.