Lessening Human-Wildlife Conflict And Improving Conservation
In regions where high densities of people and wildlife coexist, humans encroach on wildlife habitat almost continuously. However, wildlife can also cause damage to human settlements. The damage can be proprietary (done to crops and farmed animals) or physical (such as injury or death from attacks). Residents bearing the costs of the losses may resort to retaliation against wild animals, possibly even causing the local extinction of the involved species. An integral aspect of wildlife conservation in such areas, therefore, is to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts.
In this study, researchers surveyed 735 households from 347 villages around Kanha National Park, one of India’s most prominent Tiger Reserves. The primary goal was to evaluate patterns of human-wildlife conflict in order to facilitate better management of conservation efforts. By collecting data both within and outside of the administratively-designated “buffer” zone immediately surrounding Kanha, the authors sought also to observe any differences.
The researchers identified factors including agricultural, demographic, and environmental measures as well as conflict-mitigation factors, all of which are strongly associated with conflict. The authors also created digital maps visualizing predicted crop and farmed animal loss for the surveyed area. The study found that crop and animal loss appears to be prevalent among the households interviewed: 73% had experienced crop loss within the previous year, and 30% had endured the loss of animals over the same period.
Certain factors were found to be strongly associated with the degree of loss experienced. Importantly, the use of mitigation measures (e.g., fencing, night watching, guard animals, lighting) appeared generally effective in preventing crop loss. However, only the use of physical structures seemed to be associated with lower animal loss. The authors interpret this to mean that investment in measures for farmed animal protection should be selective. Households closer to Kanha (both within and outside of the buffer zone) are at greater risk of crop loss, but the probability of animal loss seems to be larger inside the buffer rather than outside it.
The present study is meaningful for wildlife conservationists and lawmakers throughout the world because it shows the potential of spatial sampling and modeling to decrease local-resident hostility towards wildlife. Future efforts may include the development of a live monitoring system, such as a cell-phone alert program, for faster and more accurate dissemination of conflict information and, ultimately, more effective wildlife conservation.