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Understanding Kerala’s man-elephant conflict

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Conservation, Environment


Source: IE


Direction: The article covers the issues of man-animal conflict and highlights the success story of Kerala in reducing incidents of such conflicts.


Context: The larger issue of man-animal conflict needs to be discussed as calls for the capture of an elephant that reacted to overexcited tourists in Munnar, Kerala, grow louder.


Man-Animal Conflict:


  • Meaning: The IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Human-Wildlife Conflict & Coexistence Specialist Group defines human-wildlife conflict as struggles that emerge when the presence or behaviour of wildlife poses an actual or perceived, direct and recurring threat to human interests or needs, leading to disagreements between groups of people and negative impacts on people and/or wildlife. Human-wildlife conflicts can occur wherever wildlife and human populations overlap, so any factor that forces wildlife and people into closer contact makes conflicts more likely.



Reasons for the conflict:

  • Growing human/animal populations overlap with established wildlife/human territory, creating a reduction of resources.
  • Fragmentation of habitats and corridors due to legal and illegal changes in land use – clearances for mining or encroachment for agriculture.
  • Agricultural Expansion and Changing cropping patterns that attract wild animals to farmlands.
  • Habitat degradation due to the growth of invasive alien species, etc.
  • Other Reasons: Infrastructure development, Climate Change, etc.




  • A Future for All Report 2021 jointly published by WWF and UNEP suggests an approach of coexistence between humans and wildlife and the involvement of local communities, as it is not possible to wholly suppress human-wildlife conflict.
  • Periodic awareness campaigns: To sensitize, guide and advise the general public on man-animal conflict, including dissemination of information through various forms of media.
  • Skill-development programs: For people living in and around the forest would consequently reduce the combined pressures on agricultural land as well as forest land.
  • National Wildlife Action Plan 2017-31: The issue of human-wildlife conflict has been included in the plan. It has underscored the need for a landscape-level approach, the acceptance of rights of use and entry (into forests), and an emphasis on people’s participation in conservation, promoting coexistence between wildlife and local communities through awareness and education programs, and identifying and declaring critical wildlife habitats and migration corridors and taking measures to protect them from human encroachment.
  • A landscape-based approach is a method of conservation and management that focuses on preserving and managing entire ecosystems, rather than individual species or habitats. It takes into account the interconnectedness of different habitats, species, and ecosystem services within a given landscape.
    • A landscape-based approach aims to:
  1. Maintain the ecological integrity and functional diversity of the landscape
  2. Promote the conservation of biodiversity, including endangered species and habitats
  3. Support the sustainable use of natural resources by local communities
  4. Address the root causes of conservation problems, such as habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation.


The case of Kerala – A success story in managing man-animal conflict:

  • Though seen a relative spike in recent years, the magnitude of human-elephant conflict in Kerala is relatively low when compared with its abundance of wild elephants.
  • Of the estimated nationwide population of 30,000 wild elephants in 2017, Kerala had about 5,700 (19%). Between 2018-2021, elephants killed 2,036 people in India and Kerala accounted for only 81 (4%) of these deaths.
  • Elephants are far-ranging animals.
    • But in Kerala,
      • The frontiers between the wilderness and civilisation have remained largely unaltered in recent years.
      • Changes in agricultural practices in cropland. For example, coffee, pepper or tea plantations, in which jumbos have little interest.



Conclusion: Proactive perception management, stricter enforcement by the states and a pragmatic policy for the problem will reduce the incidents of man-animal conflict. Healthy ecosystems and the vital services they provide to people depend on wildlife. Managing human-wildlife conflicts is therefore crucial to achieve the UN Vision for Biodiversity 2050 in which ‘humanity lives in harmony with nature and in which wildlife and other living species are protected’.



Uttar Pradesh has declared man-animal conflict death as a state disaster.



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Man-Animal conflict