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Human-Wildlife Conflict

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    19th Jul, 2021

The report, titled, “A future for all - the need for human-wildlife coexistence”, by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has stated that conflict between humans and animals is one of the main threats to the long-term survival of some of the world’s most iconic species.

Context

The report, titled, “A future for all - the need for human-wildlife coexistence”, by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has stated that conflict between humans and animals is one of the main threats to the long-term survival of some of the world’s most iconic species.

Background

  • Around the world, human wildlife conflict (HWC) challenges people and wildlife, leading to a decrease in people’s tolerance for conservation efforts and contributing to multiple factors that drive species to extinction
  • HWC is a significant threat to conservation, livelihoods, and myriad other concerns and should be addressed at a scale equal to its importance.
  • By allocating adequate resources and forming wide-ranging partnerships, we can move towards long-term coexistence that benefits both people and wildlife.

Analysis

Key-highlights of the Report

  • The report features contributions from 155 experts from 40 organisations based in 27 countries.
  • Globally, conflict-related killing affects more than 75 per cent of the world’s wild cat species.
  • Besides, many other terrestrial and marine carnivorespecies such as polar bears and Mediterranean monk seals as well as large herbivores such as elephants are affected.
  • Global wildlife populations have fallen an average of 68 per cent since 1970.
  • India will be most-affected by human-wildlife conflict. This was because it had the world’s second-largest human population as well as large populations of tigers, Asian elephants, one-horned rhinos, Asiatic lions and other species.

Data on human-elephant conflict

  • In India, data from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change indicates that over 500 elephants were killed between 2014-2015 and 2018-2019, mostly due to human-elephant conflict.
  • During the same period, 2,361 people were killed as a result of conflict with elephants.

Example

  • The report gave the example of Sonitpur district in Assam. Here, destruction of forests had forced elephants to raid crops, in turn causing deaths of both, elephants and humans.
  • In response, WWF India had developed the ‘Sonitpur Model’ during 2003-2004 by which community members were connected with the state forest department.
  • They were given training on how to work with them to drive elephants away from crop fields safely.
  • WWF India had also developed a low-cost, single strand, non-lethal electric fence to ease the guarding of crops from elephants.

What drives Human-Wildlife Conflict?

  • HWC results from a variety of ecological and anthropogenic drivers that exert pressures on landscapes where humans and wildlife share space
  • Ecological drivers include seasonal changes, natural calamities, and animals’ life cycles, as well as the movement patterns of animals
  • Anthropogenic drivers, such as habitat loss, changes in land use, livestock management, expansion of agricultural practices, climate change, resource extraction, infrastructure development, and urbanisation
  • Each negative impact emerges from a complex web of interactions between drivers, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to view the effect of one driver in isolation
  • For instance, if forests are cleared for settlements or agriculture, or roads are cut into previously inaccessible areas, habitat loss and fragmentation result, forcing wildlife and people into closer proximity to each other

Timeline of milestones in development of HWC management

The IUCN SSC Human-Wildlife Conflict Task Force

  • The IUCN SSC Human-Wildlife Conflict Task Force (HWCTF) is a global advisory group and think tank.
  • It aims to support professionals working on HWC by providing interdisciplinary guidance, resources, and capacity building.
  • The IUCN established the HWCTF to foster connection between policymakers, scientists, and communities and to assimilate knowledge and capacity for HWC management across IUCN members and the wider conservation community.

WHC-SGD Linkages

SDG No.

Goal

Effect

1

No Poverty

HWC affects the income of farmers, herders, artisanal fishers, and Indigenous peoples, particularly those living in poverty and without resilience

2

Zero Hunger

Wildlife damages food stores, crops, and livestock and puts subsistence farmers at risk of hunger

3

Good Health & Well Being

HWC impacts people’s health – both directly, when attacks lead to injury, and more indirectly, for example, when malaria rates increase as a result of farmers’ need to protect their crops through the night

4

Quality Education

Children are often responsible for time-consuming crop and livestock guarding, which decreases school attendance and lowers education standards for pupils in HWC-impacted areas, creating potentially lifelong inequalities

5

Gender Equality

Women carry the highest burden of HWC due to their role in society and culturally defined tasks and responsibilities; for example, not only are they vulnerable to attack by wildlife while collecting natural resources but also, if they are widows, they may suffer high losses because it is culturally unacceptable for them to guard at night

6

Clean Water & Sanitation

In arid parts of the world, water access may be reduced and risky for people as they compete with wildlife for water sources

8

Decent Work & Economic Growth

HWC can drive the vicious circle of poverty and low livelihood diversity, resulting in the unavailability of occupational work in HWC hotspots

9

Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure

HWC can increase as a result of linear infrastructure development that fails to consider the migratory routes and spatial distribution of wildlife, resulting in vehicle collisions with wildlife or displacement of wildlife

10

Reduced Inequalities

HWC drives inequality of cost and benefit distribution if those who pay the price for living with wildlife do not receive the benefits of coexistence

11

Sustainable Cities & Communities

Facing shrinking natural habitats, wildlife increasingly utilises green spaces in urban areas and pursues non-traditional food sources, which leads to urban HWC, such as human-leopard conflict in the city of Mumbai

13

Climate Action

Climate change alters habitats and drives human and wildlife behaviour changes, bringing humans and wildlife into closer proximity to each other, which can lead to HWC

14

Life Below Water

Marine HWC negatively impacts the survival of many marine species, including sharks, whales, sea turtles, seals, and polar bears

15

Life On Land

The survival of multiple terrestrial species, particularly apex predators and megaherbivores, depends on successful HWC management and coexistence

16

Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions

Carnivores and megaherbivores create immediate safety concerns. Also, HWC can lead to demoralising conflicts between groups of people and result in inequities and societal destabilisation

17

Partnership For Goals

Human-wildlife coexistence and sustainable development both require integrated decision making, participation, and good governance at international, national, and regional levels, plus the involvement of civil society

THE SIX ELEMENTS OF HWC MANAGEMENT

  • Understanding the conflict: Researching all aspects of the conflict profile to understand the context for conflict in any given situation (hotspot mapping, community attitudes, spatial and temporal characteristics, etc.)
  • Mitigation: Reducing the impacts of HWC after it occurs (compensation, insurance, alternative livelihoods, etc.)
  • Response: Addressing an ongoing HWC incident (response teams, reporting mechanisms, standard operating procedures, etc.)
  • Prevention: Stopping or preventing HWC before it occurs (fences, early detection tools, safe working environments, etc.)
  • Policy: Enabling HWC management through protocols, principles, provisions, and measures stipulated in legislation and undertaken by authorities (international and national law, national and local HWC management plans, spatial plans, etc.)
  • Monitoring: Measuring the performance and effectiveness of HWC management interventions over time (data collection, information sharing, adaptive management, etc.)

Conclusion

The means to prevent and reduce HWC have changed relatively little over time, but the socio-cultural, economic, and physical geographies of landscapes where conflict plays out have been radically transformed by ever growing human enterprises. Considering where we are in the wider landscape of moving towards human-wildlife coexistence, global community can come together and collaborate to implement and scale up integrated and holistic approaches to HWC management, and if new policies are able to strike an appropriate balance between mechanisms that deter negative human behaviour towards wildlife and those that promote and enable tolerance, then humans and wildlife may be able to share space more harmoniously for a long time to come.

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