The boar of LangtangParks must find effective ways to lessen human-wildlife conflict.
The goings on in the vicinity of Langtang National Park, where farmers in the Khanjing area have been complaining of being unable to secure their farmlands from wild animals, mostly wild boars, need immediate and serious attention. Locals have reported that the wild animals have wreaked havoc on their crops, including potato, buckwheat and barley, right when they are ready to be harvested. So much so that the distressed farmers have been leaving their farmlands barren because they don’t want their hard work to go to waste.
The conflict between the imperative of wildlife and nature conservation and the practical necessities of sustaining life and livelihood is an inevitable and everlasting phenomenon. The conflict is especially punishing for people living in the vicinity of national parks and wildlife reserves that have high animal density. For instance, the number of wild boars in Langtang National Park was estimated to be between 1,300 and 2,200 individuals, which is a massive number considering the damage they can cause to crops.
With almost no defence mechanism and contingency plan at their disposal, locals may even be tempted to cull the animals. Apart from being illegal, this practice ultimately leads to an escalation, rather than mitigation, of human-wildlife conflict and requires solutions, both immediate as well as long-lasting. While Langtang National Park has claimed to have distributed millions of rupees in compensation to farmers—as many such national parks and wildlife reserves do—the very idea of providing monetary compensation for the damage needs to be rethought when it comes to mitigating human-wildlife conflict.
Research has shown that the traditional method of providing compensation for crop and livestock damage does not fully address the conflict. Not all damage can be compensated in monetary terms; neither can protection be provided in all situations. Importantly, the psychological damage caused by the conflict cannot be quantified in monetary terms. In many countries across the world, the payment of compensation is disproportionately low, and the waiting period for receiving reimbursement excruciatingly long.
Even if the farmers are compensated in a timely manner, it does not always lead to an improved relationship between wildlife authorities and farmers. Even when they are compensated, the farmers have to depend on the market for their food, leaving them with no option but to spend a higher price for the food they would have produced on their farmlands cheaply. This ultimately leads to an increased financial burden on locals, causing an adverse effect on the life and livelihood of humans as well as the livestock dependent on them.
The people living in areas adjoining national parks are disproportionally disadvantaged as they stand to lose their means of livelihood, and in several cases, the loss of lives and livestock. Conservation programmes cannot become successful without taking local people into confidence. National parks and wildlife reserves must, therefore, find effective ways to mitigate human-wildlife conflict by locating conflict hotspots and introducing various strategies apart from compensation including but not limited to adoption of preventive management measures, alteration of land use practices, crop switching, fencing and trenching.