India is a watershed of historical, philosophical and scientific ideologies. The concept of harmonious coexistence with animals and other natural resources is quite old in the country. However, it is only in recent times that we started questioning the age-old values and practices of our forefathers. At this era of urbanization, with development being imperative; coexistence may not any longer remain as a natural way of life. It becomes a crucial challenge for mankind.
Let us focus on terrestrial carnivores now. Although the damage caused by snakes might be higher than carnivores in our country, but our psychology of fear for large carnivores makes us more sensitive to carnivore related conflicts than reptiles. Can we stop conflict? Or, should we simply manage it? And if yes, how and at what level? Should our livelihood securities and pace of development be compromised while giving priority to conservation agendas? Or, should we eradicate the problem animals totally? What, why, when, where and how?
We deliberated on many instances of successful management of human-wildlife conflicts. For example, Gujarat is a state where people are in frequent conflict with lions and leopards, but the policy makers are effectively handling hostile situations by paying timely and adequate ex-gratia for each case. Many states have different plans for crop depredations, human injuries and death by animals (such as Maharashtra). Furthermore, Corbett Tiger Reserve has immediate compensation program for livestock depredations. Pakke Tiger Reserve has implemented “Grain for Grain” scheme for crop depredations. Maharashtra has a different compensation scheme for crop depredation and injuries by bears.
Despite all these, what are our major drawbacks? According to WII experts, we need strong manpower that can build socio-economical capacity, research on species biology and behaviour, improved lifestyle of our people at lower economy stratum (most exposed to conflicts) and a long-term conservation commitment. We may need more partnership with NGOs, media, co-operative agencies where people can benefit by compensation schemes and insurance policies. we may need to implement several new technologies that can bring farmers easy cash without changing the traditional cropping patterns or escalating conflicts. Safeguarding the interests of both – human and wildlife can only be effective by formulation of a balanced policy to incentivize people without affecting their livelihood securities. I believe, this is the sole way to develop and preserve life on this planet. Historical reviews might teach us how to live with our fellow organisms in coherence.
“How unconsciously many habitual actions are performed, indeed not rarely in direct opposition to our conscious will! Yet they may be modified by the will or reason.”
-Sir Charles Darwin.
I did my Master’s in Zoology from Presidency College, Kolkata. Subsequently I worked as a Field Biologist with the Forest Department in Pakke Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh and later working as a Junior Research Fellow with WII in Barda Wildlife Sanctuary, Gujarat, camera-trapping leopards. I am primarily interested in carnivore ecology and their interaction with humans. Through my research I want to create awareness among people of all ages regarding carnivore conservation.