Human-animal conflict

One size doesn’t fit all: Indians have been wrong about how to reduce human-animal conflicts

Fencing off land or setting up machans may work – but not always and not everywhere.

As the human footprint increases, it tramples on areas reserved for wildlife, pushing animal populations to disperse into agriculture fields and human settlements. This leads to greater human-animal interaction, affecting both. For humans, the interaction results in loss of crops and livestock and damage to property, and for animals, it often means death as they are trapped, poisoned or shot.

The periphery of protected forests is where a good number of these violent human-wildlife interactions occur. This is why individuals, institutions and governments engage a range of mitigation measures: while some may set up machans, others fence off properties. But do these measures, undertaken based on convenience and costs, prove effective in reducing the conflicts?

A recent study by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society in Bengaluru addressed this question by understanding the factors that influence individuals or governments to utilise the many mitigation measures. The researchers hope that this study will help improve the management practices currently in use.

“Resolving human-wildlife conflict requires revisiting the goals of conservation policies and investments by people and organisations,” Dr Krithi Karanth, a conservation scientist and lead author of the paper, said.

A machan. Photo credit: Anubhav Vanamamalai/CWS
A machan. Photo credit: Anubhav Vanamamalai/CWS

According to Karanth, before governments or farmers invest in ways to reduce human-animal conflicts, there is a need to evaluate which measures are effective. “What this paper establishes is there is no one single measure that works,” she said, “so we need to compare and evaluate mitigation measures, rather than making large-scale investments in particular kinds of mitigation actions.”

Mitigation measures involve reactive strategies like fencing to protect crops and proactive schemes like relocation of affected communities outside protected reserves. Some of these are targeted at particular species like elephants, but most are broad-brushed for all animals – without understanding their behaviour or differences in landscapes. For this reason, the success of the measures vary. For example, fencing may work in some areas, while in others it might funnel animals to raid neighbouring farms. In other cases, fences might impede animal movements to other patches of forests.

In the short term, investments in mitigation measures could be a financial burden on economically weak farmers, while in the long run, continuation of conflict usually results in people turning against the animals.

A solar fence. Photo credit: Wildlife Conservation Society.
A solar fence. Photo credit: Wildlife Conservation Society.

To understand the effectiveness of mitigation measures, Dr Karanth and her colleague Sahila Kudalkar, a researcher at the Centre for Wildlife Studies, examined the economic, environmental and demographic factors driving mitigation strategies across 11 protected reserves in India. These reserves are spread across different geographical areas and forest types – from dry, thorny, scrub forests of the Aravallis in Rajasthan to sal and dry deciduous forests in Central India to mix of dry, moist and evergreen forests in the Western Ghats.

The researchers surveyed nearly 5,200 households falling within a 10 kilometre buffer of these 11 forest areas. They found that 72% of the households reported some form of conflict with wildlife, such as crop damage or livestock depredation, with 58% of households in Nagarhole in South India and as many as 84% around Kanha in Central India being affected.

There are multiple factors that explain these differences. The researchers find close association between crops and the risk of damage by wildlife. “Crops such as rice, banana, sugarcane, and maize were especially vulnerable in the Western Ghats’ reserve, while pulses and millets are at higher risk of damage in Rajasthan,” Kudalkar said.

The reserves in the Western Ghats recorded crop and livestock losses in areas closer to the reserve. In Kanha, as many as 83% of households suffered crop damage due to more number of crops grown in a year. Eighty per cent incurred livestock loss, as a majority of households owned animals.

Compensation schemes

Animals associated with crop damage also vary between reserves. Out of the 32 different species attributed to conflicts across reserves, wild pigs were a common cause for crop damage across all but one reserve, whereas nilgai accounted for most in Western India and elephants in the Western Ghats. This may not be surprising as wild pigs occur throughout the surveyed landscape and are found in large sounders. Their preferred food is roots and tubers under the forest floor. Nilgai occur in open habitats in peripheral areas of the reserves, while elephants need large amounts of food and areas to sustain themselves. Similarly, leopards were responsible for most livestock kills around the reserves. This could be due to their ability to adapt and persist along fringe areas of the reserves.

Dr Karanth’s previous work on compensation policies has shown that many states like Rajasthan do not compensate crop damage by any animal, while Karnataka does not recognise crop damage by wild pigs at all. Hence farmers choose to ignore damage done by wild pigs or don’t bother filing for compensation. Not surprisingly, researchers found households were twice as likely to take mitigation measures against crop damage attributed to nilgai, as compared to wild pigs.

The study shows several patterns that emerge from mitigation measures used by households. Households that experience interaction with wildlife for longer duration are more likely to use any protection measures. Households closer to the reserves invest more resources and effort in safeguarding their assets. The higher the number of assets owned, greater the effort to protect them. The type of animal dictates the mitigation effort employed by people. Households in different regions and locations employ varying degrees of mitigation measures. Households continue to face loses despite employing many kinds of mitigation measures. This suggests there is an urgent need to use measures suited for local regions and practices.

Understanding these complex interactions will help authorities develop mitigation strategies, improve compensation schemes, etc. The researchers urge mitigation efforts should focus on the most vulnerable households, regions as well as species causing the most damage. This should build tolerance towards animals while failure to do so will only exacerbate hostilities against wildlife.

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From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.