Human-wildlife conflict one of the greatest threats to wildlife species – WWF and UNEP report
Context: A report titled, A future for all – the need for human-wildlife coexistence, was recently released by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Highlights of the report:
- Conflict between humans and animals is one of the main threats to the long-term survival of some of the world’s most iconic species.
- Globally, conflict-related killing affects more than 75 per cent of the world’s wild cat species. It also affects polar bears and Mediterranean monk seals as well as large herbivores such as elephants.
- Global wildlife populations have fallen an average of 68 per cent since 1970.
- The report featured contributions from 155 experts from 40 organisations based in 27 countries.
- The report also points to the increase of pandemics as a subset of this Human-Wildlife Conflict.
- The COVID-19 sparked by a zoonotic disease that very likely originated in wild animals and then spread to people is driven by the close association of people, their livestock, and wildlife and by the unregulated consumption of wild animals.
- As per the report, human-wildlife conflict is not just conservation issue but also a development and humanitarian issue which affects the income of farmers, herders, artisanal fishers, and Indigenous peoples, particularly those living in poverty.
- It also interferes with access to water for communities competing with wildlife for local water sources and drives inequality as those who pay the price for living with wildlife rarely receive the benefits of coexistence.
- Reducing human-wildlife conflict in this way can lead to opportunities and benefits not only for biodiversity and impacted communities, but for society, sustainable development, production, and the global economy at large.
- India faces an increasing challenge of human wildlife conflict, which is driven by development pressures and an increasing population, high demand for land and natural resources, resulting in loss, fragmentation, and degradation of wildlife habitats.
- As per, Union ministry of Environment, over 500 elephants were killed between 2014-2015 and 2018-2019, mostly due to human-elephant conflict.
- During the same period, 2,361 people were killed as a result of conflict with elephants.
- Report also found that 35 per cent of India’s tiger ranges currently lie outside protected areas.
- Apart from India’s tigers, 40 per cent of the African lion range and 70 per cent of the African and Asian elephant ranges fall outside protected areas.
- India will be most-affected by human-wildlife conflict because it has the world’s second-largest human population as well as large populations of tigers, Asian elephants, one-horned rhinos, Asiatic lions and other species.
- As per the report, India’s elephants are biggest victims of the conflict as they are restricted to just 3-4 per cent of their original habitat.
- Their remaining range is plagued by deforestation, invasive species and climate change.
- The report gave the example of Sonitpur district in Assam.
- In Sonitpur district in Assam, destruction of forests had forced elephants to raid crops, in turn causing deaths of both, elephants and humans.
- In response, WWF India had developed the ‘Sonitpur Model’ during 2003-2004 by which community members were connected with the state forest department.
- They were given training on how to work with them to drive elephants away from crop fields safely.
- WWF India had also developed a low-cost, single strand, non-lethal electric fence to ease the guarding of crops from elephants.
- Afterwards, crop losses dropped to zero for four years running. Human and elephant deaths also reduced significantly
- Completely eradicating human-wildlife conflict is not possible. But well-planned, integrated approaches to managing it can reduce conflicts and lead to a form of coexistence between people and animals.
- Empower gram panchayats in dealing with the problematic wild animals as per the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- Augment fodder and water sources within the forest areas.
- WWF is an independent conservation organization, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries.
- It was established in 1961 and is headquartered at Gland, Switzerland.
- WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
- UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment established on June 5, 1972 with Headquarters at Nairobi, Kenya.
- It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
- Major Reports: Emission Gap Report, Global Environment Outlook, Frontiers, Invest into Healthy Planet.
- Major Campaigns: Beat Pollution, UN75, World Environment Day, Wild for Life.