Human-wildlife conflictThere can be no permanent solution, but we need to focus on minimising future conflicts.
The death of an elephant in Dahijoda forest in Jhapa has once again raised critical questions concerning the ongoing battle between humans and the constantly threatened wildlife in the region. This is the second case of an elephant’s death within a week. Despite continued success in other conservation areas, death and destruction incidents stand as a glaring reminder that not all is rosy when it comes to handling the delicate issue of conservation. While there were no visible signs of any physical injury on the elephant, scattered electrical wires within the vicinity of the dead tusker have raised suspicion that it was probably death by electrocution.
With the human population rising and demand for space continuing to grow, there is increased interaction between people and wildlife, leading to conflict. Animals searching for food often venture to the edge of human habitations and, lured by the availability of an easy meal, inadvertently fall into the traps set by humans, primarily designed to avert the destruction of their livelihood. Defensive and retaliatory measures such as setting up electrical fences will aggravate the situation. But conservation at the cost of displacing an existing human habitation is no solution to an ever-increasing crisis.
The conflict between humans and wildlife never ends on a cheerful note. While, on the one hand, Nepal has made significant strides in conserving wildlife such as tigers, rhinos and blackbucks, none of the measures has been without its fair share of conflict. Behind all the success and accolades, locals have had to bear the brunt of this saga. Statistics related to tiger attacks in Bardia show an increasing trend, which is directly proportional to the rising population of tigers in the region. A lopsided effort in maintaining wildlife habitats at the cost of human life and livelihood too does not bode well for the overall conservation effort.
While it is evident that continuous human-wildlife conflict could result in the eventual decline of the species or possible eradication at worst, the burden of conservation mismanagement generally tends to fall on those members of the communities that have often fallen below the poverty line and been deprived of access to economic opportunities. It is easy to root for the successes of an improved wildlife situation from the comfort of one’s urban setting, but perhaps a little thought towards those who must engage in this battle continually wouldn’t go amiss.
The question isn’t about the advantage accorded to one particular aspect at the expense of the other. It is undoubtedly a delicate balance to achieve. Conflicts between humans and wildlife have been part and parcel of our existence. Efforts must be directed towards reassessing the relationship with constant communication between the authorities and those that are directly impacted by the conservation measures. There can be no permanent solution, but we need to focus our efforts on minimising future conflicts.