A study conducted by two wildlife researchers has indicated that 32 wildlife species are vulnerable to human-animal conflicts across the country. The study, which was brought out after examining close to 3,000 villages lying close to wildlife reserves, has called for strengthening the human-wildlife conflict management system.

The study has also highlighted the considerable loss sustained by families living in villages surrounding the forests owing to wild animals straying into human habitats. Titled, 'History, location and species matter: Insights for human-wildlife conflict mitigation', the study was carried out to help draft policies for mitigating human-animal conflict.

In the course of the study, which covered 11 wildlife reserves in western, central and southern India and was conducted from 2011-14, the researchers examined the patterns in the many cases of human-animal conflict across 2,855 villages bordering these protected areas, besides studying the preventive measures employed by 5,196 families.

Authored by Krithi Karanth, a conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and Sahila Kudalkar, research associate with the Centre for Wildlife Studies, the study was supported by DST Ramanujan Fellowship,National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation and Rufford Foundation. Besides asking the authorities concerned to identify effective prevention techniques, the duo has also advocateda dialogue between the government, the farmers and the conservationists.

The study found that 71% of the surveyed households had sustained crop loss as a result of wild animals straying out of their habitats, while 17% of them reported loss of livestock. Around 3% of the families reported human fatalities or injuries. The study has been published in the July 2017 edition of Human Dimensions of Wildlife. A majority of the conflict cases that were uncovered during the study involved tigers, wolves, elephants, sambars, sloth bears, dholes and nilgais.

Families living in villages contiguous with forest areas in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh took great pains to prevent cases of conflict, owing to past experiences, the study found. The compensation paid for damages sustained in cases of humanwildlife conflict is the highest in these two states. However, the study pointed out that households in Rajasthan were least likely to employ mitigation measures to protect crops and property.

Average crop loss sustained by one household per year amounted to Rs 12,559, while damage to livestock set them back by Rs 2,883. Given that the average monthly income of a family in rural India is Rs 5,000, these sums are likely to have a telling impact on the financial affairs of the families affected by conflict cases.

Families in the villages that were surveyed were found to be using as many as 12 different techniques, including erecting fences and night watches, to address the problem.

Source: Jun 29, 2017, The Times of India