Thursday, 16 September, 2021

Rising Conflict Between Man & Wildlife In Nepal

Roshna Chauhan

The unique geographical formation, magnificent landscapes, and rich bio-diversity of Nepal harbour widely diverse species of wild animals. Today, Nepal has succeeded in the conservation of wildlife to great extent but multiple factors continue to threaten the species survival. Among them, the human-wildlife conflict is an undeniable threat.
The interaction between humans and wild animals physically in a common space is human-wildlife conflict. It is a conflict that arises from competition between human and wild animals for food and resources. Humans and wild animals come up against each other in a variety of ways often resulting in two aspects of loss: the first is wildlife death or harms caused in retaliation and the extreme of this would be the extinction of species. The second or the human side of loss is damage and destruction of human crops, disease transmission, livestock property, and sometimes even life.
Human-wildlife conflict is a complex issue in wildlife management around the world. From elephant attack in Asia and Africa to wolves’ attack in Western Europe to big cat livestock depredation in North America, human-wildlife conflict is a universal problem. In Nepal, people are attacked by large mammal species like elephant, rhino, black bear, wild boar common leopard, etc. Human dominated landscapes and areas not included within protected areas are the major conflict hotspots in Nepal.
According to a report of the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) human injuries were the main recorded incidences (63.4 per cent) followed by casualties (36.3 per cent) and harassment (0.4 per cent) due to the attack from the wild animals. About 92 per cent of the districts in Nepal have reported the incidences of human-wildlife conflict. Wild elephant is responsible for the majority (70 per cent) of human injuries and deaths, in Nepal. The human victims are people collecting firewood and fodders from the forest, poorly secured houses located near or adjacent to the forest, and people trying to chase wild animals. The crux of the problem for rural communities in Nepal is primarily due to increased dependency on forest resources and lack of awareness about sustainable use.
The human transformation of the landscapes and ecosystem for residential purpose, farming, and the infrastructural development has fragmented wild habitats. Human activities have restricted the movement, migration, reproduction, and breeding pattern of wild animals. Issues such as restriction in the use of natural resources, loss of crops and livestock due to wildlife raids and lack of proper compensation for the losses, have been often highlighted regarding human-wildlife conflict.
Thee are the root causes of conflict between the local communities and conservation programs. Human settlements and activities have overlapped with the natural and established wildlife territory leading to scarcity of food and resources to wild animals.
The consequences of conflict are ruinous and impact is often huge. The conflict becomes more consequential when humans are attacked by the threatened and legally protected species. Here the issue comes with threatened human life along with retaliatory killings of vulnerable species leading to its extinction. Besides, the killing of legally protected species results in penalty which might cultivate a negative attitude in the local people towards community and state conservation efforts.
Human-wildlife conflict has become a defining issue of today’s conservation strategy. In Nepal management approaches and efforts to mitigate the conflict have been practiced. The government in 2010 endorsed Wildlife Damage Relief Guidelines 2066 and today we have wildlife relief Guidelines 2069 with 3rd amendment in 2073 to provide support to wildlife victims. The monetary compensation amount for human casualty is up to Rs. 200,000 per person and a maximum of Rs. 20,000 for a minor human injury. In case of the death of victims, the family of the victim shall be provided with 1,000,000. The schemes for monetary compensation for loss of domestic animals and property loss has also been mentioned in the guidelines. Scholarship programmes for the children of conflict victims have also been arranged.
Buffer zone relief fund has been created in Chitwan, Bardiya, and Suklaphanta. The community-based snow leopard insurance scheme has been practiced in the Kanchenjunga conservation area. Veterinary services and health posts have been established in the buffer zones. Solar electric fencing in Koshi Tappu protected area and animal rescue guard team formed in Kathmandu have proved to be effective in mitigating human-animal conflict. Besides this, measures like electric fencing, construction of dams, lighting of fire and high voltage torchlight, etc have been implemented in Jhapa and Chitwan districts to minimise and control wildlife damage and destruction, especially caused by wild elephants. The objective of all these efforts is to reconcile wildlife conservation with growing human needs and shrinking wildlife habitats.
The mitigation strategy has helped to reduce conflict but the intended result at a national level has not been met. Research and study for the pattern and fatalities of conflict in vast and variant geographical regions should be conducted to reduce the frequency of conflict occurrence. Wildlife corridors in human dominant areas and animal migratory routes should be constructed. The residents should be educated and trained in animal behaviour. A well planned technical preventive system with well-equipped technicians should be made to reduce losses, injuries and casualties.. In the end, the cost of conflict is both on the human and wildlife sides which are equally valuable.

(The author is a BALLB student)