Friday, 17 September, 2021

Man-Animal Conflict

The conflict between people and wild animals has perhaps begun since the earliest phase of human evolution. Scientific studies show that humans developed their physical ability to walk on two legs four million years ago. As they originated from animal species, their first homes were dense forests, mountains and caves. So there was a time when both creatures relied on forests as their common shelter and sources of life. They competed for the shared natural resources, affecting human food security and safety of both humans and animals. However, they can hardly live in harmony and proximity. Instead, people survived on plants and animals. Animal meat had been the staple food of humans for millennia. With the start of agriculture age, the people began to settle in specific places by building huts and houses. As the cleverest and most intelligent species, man pushed every frontier of knowledge, occupying the vast swathes of lands and encroaching upon the forests.

There should not have been tension between the people and animals as the former built settlements far away from the jungle habitat of wild animals. But that was not the case. In quest of fulfilling their insatiable economic development, humans recklessly destroyed the habitat of animals, posing a survival threat to the latter. In order to feed the growing population, the countries made transformative use of land. This has negative repercussions for the wildlife. With their habitat and preys declining massively, the wild animals such as leopards, elephants and tigers mistakenly intrude the human settlements in search of food. They destroy crops, houses, and injure and kill people. The hostile encounter between humans and animals has always invited damaging consequences.

In Nepal, numerous incidents of fatal confrontations between human and animals take place every year. The residents of Kathmandu Valley have frequent encounters with leopards, thanks to rapid urbanisation that has degraded and fragmented animal habitats. The Valley has been surrounded by the forest hills and passes which serve as the habitat of leopards. But these pristine verdant places have shrunk due to human activities. Hungry and angry leopards from the capital’s surrounding Chandragiri, Shivapuri, Nagarjuna, Phulchowki, Indradaha, and Nagarkot enter the human settlements time and again. Experts say leopards roam inside the Valley to prey on domesticated animals such as dog. According to the news report of this daily, the Central Zoo rescues around five straying leopards in and around the Valley annually. But only two of them survive despite their treatment and care. The rescued leopards are found sick and unable to adapt in its new home.

In the last five years, 21 leopards were rescued from the capital valley. Captured and rehabilitated leopards find it difficult to adapt themselves in small surrounding such as zoo. Increasing cases of leopard-human conflict are the matter of big worry in recent years. During encounter, leopards attack, injure and kill the unsuspecting residents. A study has found that dogs are more likely to attract leopards to settlements as they are leopard's preferred prey. They visit the Valley during the night in search of prey and get trapped somewhere in the morning. The state needs to devise effective policy to protect animal habitat and biodiversity, and develop ways to minimise human-animal conflict. Scientific research, sociological studies as well as effective conservation programmes are equally important to foster coexistence between humans and wild animals.