Human-animal conflict: 89% of dwellers are willing to move out from protected forest areas
Bengaluru, Nov 29: The killing of the man-eating tigress of Yavatmal and the subsequent controversy has brought into focus the lack of man-animal conflict management in habitats outside protected areas such as wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.
The task of conservation has become even more difficult as most PAs are surrounded by people who are alienated from the aims and need for wildlife conservation. Restrictions on forest use, poorly managed village displacement, conflicts with wildlife, and unclear forest rights fuel resentment among local communities.
The relocation and resettlement of people from nature reserves is a controversial issue in
the conservation community. Resettlements are especially challenging for the Indian government, with an estimated 4.3 million people sharing spaces with megafauna such as tigers and elephants within protected areas.
Majority are willing to move out
A scientific reserach has claimed that majority of the forest dwellers living in protected areas are willing to move out for better access to roads, healthcare and educational facilities. Human-wildlife conflict was a top-ranked reason for relocation from Tadoba, Wayanad, and Nagarahole.
In a recent publication, lead-authored by Krithi K. Karanth, Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS) Chief Conservation Scientist, and co-authored by Sahila Kudalkar and Shivangi Jain from CWS.
The researchers conducted a comprehensive assessment of people choosing to relocate outside protected areas from four states across India. The study was conducted in three tiger reserves-Tadoba, Kawal, and Nagarahole, and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.
They surveyed 592 house holds from 16 villages to understand and evaluate how different geographies, social, political and economic contexts influence people's decisions to move.
Reasons are varied
Across the wildlife reserves surveyed, the majority (89%) of the households expressed willingness in relocation and cited access to better healthcare, roads, and education with reduced humanwildlife conflict as the top reasons for resettlement.
Improved agricultural opportunities were the main motivation for poor, small land holders while reduction in human-wildlife conflict was the reason given by wealthier households, for favouring relocation. Past relocation history also played a role in influencing decision, as with families in Kolsa village of Tadoba. Families there were apprehensive about relocation even a decade after other families who had chosen to relocate earlier reported poor land and inadequate irrigation.
In Tadoba, people's decision to relocate was strongly associated with their village, with Kolsa villagers least likely to relocate (Table 1). Improved agricultural opportunities (25%), human-wildlife conflict (21%), and education (13%) were the primary reasons for relocation.
At Kawal, 99% of households wanted to move out of the PA. Better roads (46%), and improved healthcare (25%) were the top-ranked reasons for relocation.
Wayanad and Nagarahole
In Wayanad, 100% of households wanted to relocate, and 81% ranked human-wildlife conflict as the primary reason. While at Nagarahole, NTCA package (76%), and human-wildlife conflict (21%) were the top-ranked reasons for people's decision to move.
The study revealed that inculcating multiple regional, cultural, socio-economic and political forces was crucial as they shaped people's decision making prior to relocation out of parks/wildlife reserves. The study stressed that relocation projects needed to remain free of any governmental coercion.
Analysis also showed that offering practical packages and socially relevant opportunities was key to enabling people in re-establishing and leading successful lives post relocation. Where endangered megafauna such as the tiger and the elephant need spaces to persist and conflict remains high, fair and effective resettlement programmes offer a rare opportunity for a win-win solution.
The scientists concluded that well executed resettlement projects with adequate post-relocation support can simultaneously improve people's lives and aid recovery of wildlife.