17th JUNE 2016
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
GS III : ENVIRONMENT – MAN ANIMAL CONFLICT
Q1.Human injuries and deaths due to wildlife is a serious issue. Also, certain wildlife species cause crop damages. In such a scenario is culling of such species a viable option? Also, elucidate on other alternative approaches.
The difference of views on the killing of wild animals between a former and a sitting Environment Minister of the ruling party — one in favour, the other against — has hit the front pages.
- Human injuries and deaths due to wildlife is a serious issue, but recent studies show that a large proportion are a result of accidental encounters with species such as elephants and bears.
- In parts of India, wildlife species such as wild pig, elephants, macaques, and nilgai occasionally damage crops or property.
- No reliable estimates of economic loss nationwide are available, but a number — almost certainly an underestimate of real and opportunity costs to farmers and property owners — of Rs.200 to Rs.400 crore has been quoted in media reports.
- Such economic losses can be serious and crippling for individual poor farmers and deserve urgent attention.
- The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recently permitted three States, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and Himachal Pradesh, to declare earlier protected wild animal species as “vermin” under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, thereby allowing private shooters and others to kill these species with few safeguards and no risk of prosecution.
- Two States, Maharashtra and Telangana, issued similar orders.
- The species — nilgai antelope in Bihar and Maharashtra, the rhesus macaque in Himachal Pradesh, and wild pig in all States except Himachal Pradesh — were listed for culling because the animals, whose populations are allegedly increasing, damage crops.
- However, this is not a viable alternative, as, removal through capture or killing may not prevent recurrence of conflicts and may even exacerbate them.
- Himachal Pradesh, for instance, killed hundreds of rhesus macaques in 2007 (with conflicts recurring within two years), sterilised over 96,000 macaques since 2007 (while conflicts continued to increase), yet now proposes more of the same.
- Culling (killing) or removal of “conflict” wildlife, often labelled “problem animals”, is one among a suite of possible interventions recommended by conservation scientists and managers.
- A better approach to conflict management requires integration of scientific evidence, ecology and behaviour of particular species, and landscape and socio-economic context.
- Field research by wildlife scientists in diverse landscape contexts, on different wildlife species and kinds of human-wildlife interactions, including “conflicts”, suggests multiple solutions.
- Effective measures to mitigate man-animal conflict include:
(1) deploying animal early warning systems,
(2) providing timely public information on presence and movements of species such as elephants to local people to facilitate precautionary measures, and
(3) attending to health and safety needs that reduce the risk of wildlife encounters.
(4) Housing improvements and provision of amenities such as lighting, indoor toilets, and rural public bus services help reduce accidental human deaths.
(5) Improving livestock corrals can reduce livestock losses and carnivore incursion into villages,
(6) better garbage disposal and avoiding deliberate or accidental feeding of animals reduces risks associated with wild animals like monkeys.
- Crop damage by wildlife may occur when animals enter crop fields because of habitat alteration and fragmentation (by mining or infrastructure projects, for example), because crops are edible, or because the fields lie along movement routes to forest patches or water sources.
- Research reveals that a small proportion of villages in the landscape may be conflict “hotspots” and, additionally, peripheral fields may be more vulnerable than central ones. Such site-specific scientific information helps design targeted mitigation with participation of affected people.
- Effective measures to mitigate crop damages by wildlife include:
(1) supporting local communities to install — and, more important, maintain on a sustained basis — bio-fencing and power fencing around vulnerable areas.
(2) Crop insurance for wildlife damage, which the Environment Ministry recently recommended be included in the National Crop/Agricultural Insurance Programme, also deserves trial.
The way ahead:
- Conservationists today also use modern technology such as mobile phones for SMS alerts, customised apps, automated wildlife detection and warning systems, and participatory measures for wildlife tracking and rapid response to monitor and reduce conflicts, save crops, property, and human lives.
- Broadly, these are categorised as proactive measures to reduce negative human-wildlife interactions, in contrast to the traditional reactive measures such as killing, removal, or compensation carried out after conflicts occur.
- Blaming a “problem animal” may be easier than to carrying out concerted efforts to deal with what are actually “problem locations”.
- Identification of appropriate proactive measures, including where and when and how they should be deployed, requires prior scientific research on conflict patterns in specific landscapes and locations.