One of the biggest problems of this generation is human-wildlife conflict. In the last few years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of human-animal conflicts. Recently the national dailies carried the news of a rogue elephant, Arikomban (rice-tusker), that had been terrorising human habitats on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. He had already killed at least 11 humans. Statistics show that 1,579 humans were killed by elephants, 125 humans by tigers, 222 elephants were killed by electrocution and 29 tigers were killed by poaching, and 197 tiger deaths are under scrutiny, all these taking place in the last 3 years. These statistics highlight the predominant and pertinent question, ‘Can human beings and animals co-exist?’
The main reason contributing to the worsening human-wildlife conflict is the booming human population in India. Consequently, developmental activities have increased and the habitat of animals is threatened or has been drastically reduced due to receding forests. Humans are increasingly infiltrating animal territories for illegal activities and for constructing living habitats for themselves. However, there has been an increase in the animal populations in some cases.
We humans need to be aware of the problem and the impact it will have on Mother Earth and on the future generations. Many measures are taken by the government to deal with the issue, like the Wild Life Protection Act (1972), setting up advisory boards, empowering gram panchayats, providing insurance or relief as compensation for loss and for augmenting fodder and water sources within the forest areas for animals. However, these efforts do not always produce the desired results.
There is a greater need for education and awareness among the masses so that they are sensitized about the human-animal conflict, and its impact on both humans and animals. Then, in collaboration with the local communities, the issues have to be studied individually and long-term sustainable solutions have to be worked out to reduce or prevent the conflict. Multiple approaches to the problem have to be deployed in each case, depending on the context.
The most widespread method for reducing the human-wildlife conflict is to keep wildlife out of the areas where there is a thick human population or agricultural density. The government needs to prevent the population from migrating closer to the wildlife areas or encroaching into animal habitats. Protecting forestlands and natural habitats is the key. So, we have to ensure that an adequate distance is maintained between the natural habitats of animals and of human beings.
Finally, there is a need for change in our attitude towards these animals. Due to the threats from wildlife and attacks on our cultivation, livestock or even humans, our perception of and attitude towards animals have become negative and inimical. A great degree of tolerance towards and our coexistence with wildlife from the part of individuals and communities are also crucial to protect, preserve and conserve wildlife in the world.
We dedicate this issue of TTT to this peaceful co-existence between humans and the wildlife.
Vincent Carmel brings with him years of experience in working with young people, and was actively involved with the Indore-based Universal Solidarity Movement (USM) for more than three years. A great lover of the North East, he was the Director of the North East Social Communications (NESCOM), organising motivational programmes for the youth of the region.