There was a time, not so long ago, when human beings and wildlife existed at very close quarters with one another. As evident by cultures across the wold, human beings shared a very deep and strong relationship with nature. As mankind moved forward, we grew more distant from this connection. Today, we live in a world where our actions are severely in conflict with the well-being of wildlife and their ecosystems. The encroachments of forest land, fragmentation of habits by roads and rails, conflict in farm-lands, poaching and illegal wildlife trade; these phenomena have come to define mankind’s relationship with wild-spaces. Currently, we are losing anywhere between 200 to 2000 species annually to extinction. It is pressing that we address the conflict in this relationship before we lose more than we already have.
Conservation sciences have witnessed an overhaul in the past few decades. With the ever-shrinking buffer between human settlements and wildlife, exclusionary and protectionist forms of conservation are far from effective in addressing the problem at hand. Accounting for human development in conservation practices, and promoting co-dependence has proven to be a much more effective way forward.
Understanding human-animal conflict
The very definition of human-animal conflict is when the behaviour of wildlife negatively impacts humans or vice-versa
Experts cite increased area under cultivation around wildlife habitats, changing cropping pattern, significant increase in the population of animals like elephants and tigers due to conservation efforts, and movement of livestock and humans in wildlife habitats during odd hours as the main reasons for the rise in human-wildlife conflict incidents. There has also been a substantial increase in the population of prolific breeders like wild boars and peacocks, which tend to depend on agricultural produce for food. Moreover, invasive alien species have reduced the availability of food and water in wild spaces. Monoculture of species such as eucalypts and acacia has also adversely affected plant biodiversity.With emerging challenges like climate change, India needs a strong political will to address issues of wildlife conservation. India is home to various critically endangered species that require consistent efforts. For instance, only 150 great Indian bustard are left in India. Recent reports suggest that transmission lines in India’s green energy project are threatening its conservation.
The solution to conflict is fa from simple, and requires a lot of ground-work to understand the extent of human interest, as well as the dynamics of wildlife behavior. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to conflict. Conflict mitigation projects should follow a holistic approach by considering a thematic triangle’ of driver-prevention-damage mitigation at various levels.
The ideal output areas are:
- Development of a strategy and action plan to reduce human-wildlife conflict at a national level and in selected states.
- Pilot application of a holistic approach and instruments to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts at pilot sites in three project partner states
- Facilitation of capacity development for key stakeholders to mitigate human-wildlife conflict in India
Steps taken by the government of India to protect Wildlife
The Government has taken several steps to protect wildlife and its habitats. Important steps taken in this regard include:
- The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 provides for stringent punishment for violation of its provisions. The Act also provides for forfeiture of any equipment, vehicle or weapon that is used for committing wildlife offense(s). Rare and endangered species found in India, have been listed in Schedule-I of the WPA, thereby providing them highest degree of protection.
- Protected Areas, viz., National Parks, Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves have been created in the country covering important habitats to provide better protection to wildlife, including threatened species and their habitat.
- Financial assistance is provided to the State/Union Territory Governments under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of ‘Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats’, for better protection to wildlife and improvement of habitat.
- The local communities are involved in conservation measures through eco-development activities which help the forest departments in protection of wildlife.
- The Wild Life Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) coordinates with State/UTs and other enforcement agencies to gather intelligence about poaching and unlawful trade in wild animals and animal articles.
- Alerts and advisories were issued by WCCB on poaching and illegal trade of wildlife to the concerned State and Central agencies for preventive action.