Monday, July 26, 2021

Human-animal conflict

Of late we are hearing reports of consistent increase in wild animals attacking humans and livestock living close to forest areas in different parts of the country, including Nagaland. In our State, the highest number of attacks is from elephants and such has been reported on human populations in villages and grazing pastures. On Tuesday, it was reported that a tiger/leopard attacked and killed livestock at Purana Bazaar-B village under Chumukedima circle, forcing the administration to issue advisory to villagers to take precautionary measures and avoid human movement in the forest, fields and jungles as well as prohibit free roaming of cattle and other livestock in the area. It is a matter of serious concern that conflict between human population and wild animals appears to be on the increase in various parts of the country. Today we see reports of animals roaming in human habitations in search of food and prey as the wild habitats continue to shrink across the country. Apart from this, there have been cases when wild animals have strayed into human settlements not only close to the forest reserves but also cities for reasons known to the wildlife protection authorities. There have been cases when leopards, bears and other small animals have been straying into metropolitan cities from wildlife reserves. They had to be rescued and sent back to the forests for rehabilitation by the wildlife authorities in recent past. There have also been cases when people grazing their cattle in the grazing pastures have been attacked by wild animals for different reasons or when they came face to face with humans while preying on domesticated goats and sheep besides dogs which are part of the herd. The wildlife authorities as such do not have any plans or teams ready for meeting such emergencies in the country except for certain areas where they are equipped to handle such situations and rescue the animals. In the process, some accidents have also taken place for no fault of the men involved in such emergencies. Here it will not be out of place to mention that complete ban on hunting of wild animals has also contributed in a big way in increasing the population of wild animals. That said, instead of initiating positive steps for the safety of both wild animals and human populations, some politicians have been involved in blame-game. It is unfortunate that two ministers in Bihar have been trying to propound their own theories about protection of wildlife and culling of animals threatening agriculture crops and human habitations. There have been unnecessary squabbles over culling of animals in Bihar and Goa in the recent past of Neelgai and monkeys in view of the fact that some of the animals have been destroying agriculture crops and vandalizing homes in villages. In fact there has to be a holistic view of the entire situation and a survey should be conducted for the safety of human settlements and crops in the hinterland. Coming to our State, the highest number of attacks is from elephants destroying agricultural crops causing huge losses to the farming community. But of late attack on livestock by wild cats is also becoming regular. There is pressure on natural resources from the increasing human population, which has resulted in increased conflict with wild animals. No remedial steps have been initiated in this direction so far. Sure, we are today seeing the State Forest Department conducting awareness on human-elephant conflict across the State. But awareness aside, no measures are taken on the ground to prevent such attacks, which increasingly are becoming quite frequent. The wildlife authorities need to seriously consider the threats to human habitations close to forest areas and small towns so that economic losses to farmers in different parts of the State are prevented. This has to go in consonance with wildlife protection in other parts of the State. This will include removing human settlements from inside the forests which is a threat to wildlife.