Last week, an elephant trampled a woman to death in Mayurbhanj, eastern India, then returned during her funeral and trampled her corpse again. That same weekend, a sloth bear mauled a man and a woman to death in a forest in Madhya Pradesh state, then spent hours playing with their remains.
Both incidents have led experts to warn that animal-human conflict is on the rise in India – a vast nation home to 1.4 billion people, around 3,000 tigers, between 6,000 and 11,000 sloth bears and around 27 000 wild elephants.
A joint report between the United Nations Environment Program and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) published in July 2021 concluded that “no country in the world will be as affected by human-wildlife conflicts in the years to come as the ‘India’, said The telegraph.
“Reaching the threshold of tolerance”
Entitled A future for all – the need for human-wildlife coexistencethe report warns that India’s “burgeoning human population” is “reaching the threshold of tolerance” for people to coexist with wild animals.
One area where the limits of such tolerance are constantly being tested is the Pilibhit region near India’s border with Nepal, which has seen more than 60 tiger-related deaths over the past decade.
The tiger population is “thriving”, but the coexistence between the creatures and local communities is “fragile” and “switches naturally to public fear when people are injured or killed”, the report’s authors explained.
According to the study, tiger attacks are known to “result in mob violence” and “retaliatory killing” through poisoning and other means.
Elephants ‘driven out of protected areas’
Retaliation killings by poisoning and electrocution have also been reported in connection with elephant attacks in India. According to statistics from the country’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate, reported by The Telegraph, 1,401 humans and 301 elephants were killed between 2018 and 2020 in India.
The document adds that deforestation “primarily to make way for new human settlements, industry and agriculture” has been a major factor in the rise of elephant-human conflicts, with elephants being hunted from ” shrinking protected areas in search of food”.
According CNNmany Indian elephants live outside national parks and reserves, with “fewer and fewer habitats to roam in search of food”, which has led them to have “increased contact with humans”.
Deforestation, which “deprives[es] species…from their natural habitat…bringing them closer to cities and towns” was likely linked to last weekend’s sloth bear attack, said CBS News.
A rise in human-wildlife conflict in the disputed region of Kashmir – where nearly 200 people have been killed by animals since 2011 – has also been linked to deforestation. “This is a man-made disaster,” said Raja Muzaffar Bhat, a local environmental activist. AlJazeera.
“As the climate changes, floral biodiversity is disrupted, creating a food shortage in the forests that forces wild animals to take to the streets,” added Nadeem Qadri, a local environmental lawyer.
“Deadly Consequences” of Conservation
from Canada Radio-Canada News said the success of “rigorous” conservation efforts in India – which has seen the tiger population rise sharply over the past two years – has also contributed to increased animal-human conflict in the South Asian country. South.
Conservation efforts in Chandrapur, central India, have caused the number of tigers in the area to double in the past five years. But in 2021, the region saw its highest number of animal and human deaths yet, with 39 people killed in predator attacks, the majority of them involving tigers.
As a result of environmental initiatives, a “difficult coexistence” with tigers has become “a part of life” in many small villages, the news site said.
Construction of “elephant corridors”
One of the ways the Indian government is working to curb rising human-animal conflict is by creating dozens of “elephant corridors” that safely connect elephants’ natural habitats and give them fewer reasons to stray into farmland or dangerous residential areas.
It’s a “massive project,” said The Indian Expresswhich is being undertaken by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change as “cases of human-elephant conflict rise”.
The government is also advising farmers to plant crops that elephants don’t like to eat, “such as chillies, lemons and ginger”, as well as dig trenches and set up alarm systems to warn people. people when elephants are nearby, CNN said.
And in Kashmir, the wildlife department is on a mission to plant fruit and fodder trees in the jungles to attract herbivorous animals. The hope is that this will attract predators, giving them less reason to venture into nearby villages.
But to truly halt these animal-human attacks, as wildlife officer Rashid Naqash told Al Jazeera, “jungle encroachment and deforestation must be stopped on a war footing.”