More than 500 people and 100 elephants die every year due to conflict with each other, officials of the environment ministry. Releasing the figures at an event World Elephant Day on August 12, the officials said interactions between humans and elephants have led to the death of both. As per the last census conducted in 2017, India is home to 30,000 elephants. Addressing the event, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said elephant conservation is vital as it balances the ecosystem. Elephants have to be kept in forests for which fodder and water augmentation programme has been initiated, the minister said, adding that by next year results will start showing.
- Depleting forest cover, encroachment in forested areas and the human settlements have come close to the forest areas.
- Excess mining, dams construction and heavy traffic movement in forested area causes animal attacks on humans.
- Construction in forested areas affects the habitat of elephants which cause man-animal conflict.
- Depletion of the natural base, changing crop patterns, suitability of man modified habitats to wild animals, presence of stray dogs and cattle in forest fringe areas.
- Lack of buffer zone between wildlife and human settlement.
- Increased disturbance due to collection of fuel wood, fodder, water etc. from the forests has also increased the incidences of man-animal conflict.
- It is observed that people have to go deeper and deeper, year by year for fetching firewood and other forest produce. This has increased the number of incidences of man-animal conflict.
- Infestation of wildlife habitat by the invasive exotic weeds. As a result, herbivores come out of forest area and cause depredation of agricultural crops on the fringes.
- Livestock grazing in forests leads to human-wildlife conflict. At the same time it is having disastrous impact on wild herbivore populations as they have to compete with livestock for their food source.
Conflict Prevention Strategies
- Protected areas and ecological corridors
- Through the establishment of PAs and efforts of conservationists and wildlife managers, wildlife conservation has become synonymous with the physical separation of humans and wildlife. Ecological corridors stitch together fragmented habitat and isolated PAs, facilitate connectivity between herds, offer demographic rescue effects, and enhance gene flow
- While ecological corridors are gaining popularity in Asia and Africa, development pressures and infrastructure expansion in or surrounding elephant ranges are commonly executed without concern for ecological impact, resulting in opposition to plans for, and needs of, corridor construction .
- Thus, a more robust understanding of human-driven land use change and a greater concern for its impacts on elephant habitat, connectivity, and migratory patterns needs to be considered.
- Electric fences and trenches
- Physical exclusion methods such as electric fences and trenches are commonly used to deter elephants from entering farmland and human settlements.
- Long-term effectiveness may be further hindered by design, responses to reports of fence breaks and fence-breaking animals, and overall PA enforcement and management.
- Physical barriers also negatively affect long-term survival by further isolating already fragmented elephant populations, disrupting movement, and access to seasonal food and water resources, and impeding gene flow between herds.
- Farmers guard crops and scare away crop-raiding elephants by yelling, setting off firecrackers or carbide cannons, hitting metal objects, and throwing stones .
- These techniques are effective in keeping elephants away from crops but they disrupt psychosocial well-being and livelihood activities of farmers.
- Audio playbacks of threatening sounds like wild cat growls, human shouts, and vocalizations from elephant matriarchal groups have only been tested as short-term and short-distance elephants repellents.
- Farmers may light bonfires and use flaming torches or flashlights to guard ripening crops and deter raiding elephants.
- Solar spotlights, which are shone in elephants’ eyes to drive them away from agricultural fields.
- In comparison to exclusion, acoustic, and light methods, agriculture-based deterrents like chili-grease covered fences and chili dung have had limited testing and use.
Early detection and warning
- Techniques for early detection and warning of elephants involve using mobile phones for quick communication among farmers, and between farmers and local officials, to facilitate cooperation in driving away potentially problematic elephants.
Conflict Mitigation Strategies
- Domestication practices have long served to remove or reduce human-elephant conflict pressures. Although elephants can breed in captivity, it is preferred to capture and train wild females
- Once captured and domesticated, elephants have integrated into human society serving in temples and at community festivities, transporting people and heavy loads for agriculture, warfare, and hunting, and helping to capture other wild elephants.
- The loss of these positive human-elephant connections in local communities and productive management of wild populations likely contributes to human-elephant conflict and the associated negativity toward species conservation
- Consistently problematic elephants, including those that have killed humans, are frequently culled to resolve resentments and prevent future clashes and losses in communities .
- Given the endangered and/or vulnerable status of elephants, as well as skewed sex ratio due to ivory poaching, culling potentially degrades the genetic health of remaining albeit fragmented elephant populations.
- Translocation involves the drugging, immobilization, and transportation of problematic elephants from human settlements or farms to PAs for release.
- Moreover, translocation often undermines conservation goals because of increased elephant mortality during capture and transportation, and sometimes deliberate killing in the release area
- More market-based strategies for mitigating human-elephant conflict provide financial compensation to those affected.
- Human-elephant conflict remains a significant problem for many communities, threatens human lives, livelihoods, and local communities, and drives habitat degradation and elephant population declines.
- Current strategies to manage human-elephant conflict largely focus on either physical separation, or mitigating the problem by domesticating, translocating, or culling problematic elephants and/or compensating farmers.
- While these tools remain important conflict management strategies, the majority appear to be driven by short-term, site-specific factors that often transfer the problems of human-elephant conflict from one place to another. In this paper, we reviewed causes and consequences of human-elephant conflict, and current approaches to preventing and mitigating human-elephant conflict.
- The fragmentation of wildlife habitat should be avoided and proper care should be taken so that the connectivity through wildlife corridors is not disturbed.
- Wide reach of LPG connections to the villagers who frequently go to the forest areas to fetch fuel wood. CSR spending could be utilised here.
- Villagers and households in heavy risk areas should be educated on preventing and mitigating conflicts.
- Crops like sugarcane, Banana, Bajra, should not be allowed to be grown near forest areas.
- Developing risk maps by integrating geographic and landscape factors for better conflict management efforts.
- Developing regional level conservation policies as there were lot of reserve level differences and need for implementing locally relevant conservation strategies.