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90. Human-wildlife Conflicts |

90. Human-wildlife Conflicts

Context

  • A radio-collared wild elephant trampled a man to death in Wayanad in Kerala.

Background

  • Wayanad has become a human-wildlife conflict hotspot in the State, distressing settler farmers and stoking unrest. 
  • The year 2022-23 has recorded 8,873 wild animal attacks in Wayanad. It has lost 41 lives to elephant attacks and seven to tiger attacks over the last decade.

Reasons for the increase in human-wildlife conflict

  • Habitat fragmentation: Human activities such as increased area under cultivation, changing cropping patterns, and movement of livestock and humans in wildlife habitats have led to habitat loss and fragmentation. 
  • Changing agricultural practices: Changes in agricultural practices, such as leaving farmland unattended due to poor returns and high wage costs, have made agricultural areas attractive targets for wildlife seeking food.
  • Decline in habitat quality: The cultivation of invasive alien plant species like acacia, mangium, and eucalyptus in forest tracts for commercial purposes has degraded the quality of forest habitats.
    • These water-guzzling species strain natural water resources, adversely affecting plant biodiversity and making it difficult for native species to thrive. 
    • Invasive species planted by the forest department have also hindered the growth of natural vegetation in forests.
  • Conservation Efforts: It has led to significant increases in the populations of wildlife species such as elephants and tigers, competing for limited resources in shrinking habitats, increasing the likelihood of encounters with humans.

Why is Wayanad worst-affected?

  • Wayanad has a forest cover of 36.48 percent. 
  • The district’s forests are a part of a greater forested area comprising
    • Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, Bandipur National Park, and BR Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, and 
    • Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and Sathyamangalam Forest in Tamil Nadu. 

Solutions 

  • Early warning systems: There is a need to install  systems that can track the movement of elephants and other dangerous animals using drones and watchers.
  • Plantation of indigenous plants: Plants like wild mango, wild gooseberry, and wild jackfruit should be planted in the forest to ensure wild animals food security and dissuade them from entering agricultural lands.
  • Eco-restoration programmes: The state is running a scheme to acquire land from farmers, to convert them into forestland.
  • Rapid Response Teams: In areas which see the highest incidence of human-animal conflict, 15 Rapid Response Teams have been established — eight permanent, and seven temporary. 
  • The state is running schemes for the construction of elephant-proof trenches, elephant-proof stone walls, and solar powered electric fencing.
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