Human - Wildlife Interactions (Conflicts) in the Indian Himalayan Region: current scenario and the path ahead
The negative Human-Wildlife interaction (HWI) or conflict is a major management issue in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) where large expanse of human habitations and agricultural land areas are either interspersed with fragmented wildlife habitats or located in close proximity to wildlife habitats that are home to many wildlife species that are involved in crop/livestock depredations and attack on humans. Species such as the rhesus macaque, wild pig, porcupine, common leopard, snow leopard, Asiatic black bear, Himalayan brown bear, and wolf are involved in negative HWI. People living in the IHR suffer from the economic losses due to crop/livestock depredations by wildlife and have been using some indigenous protection measures to reduce losses. The Forest / Wildlife Departments provides ex gratia /compensation for losses pertaining to injury/death of humans and livestock/crop depredations. However, the increase in the levels of negative HWI and consequent decline in tolerance levels of people have led to severe public backlash that is detrimental to long-term conservation and management of wildlife in the IHR and also the well-being of human societies in the IHR. Keeping the above in view, it is evident that quantification and reduction of negative HWI in the IHR through action research and community engagement is absolute necessity for long-term conservation and management of wildlife as well as to hold the natural and social integrity of the Himalayan ecosystem. The necessary interventions required to quantify and minimizing HWI in the IHR are as follows: (i) identify vulnerable areas for regular monitoring and implementation of mitigation efforts through risk assessment in the IHR; (ii) understand the ranging pattern of selected wildlife species that are involved in livestock/crop depredation in the IHR and biological factors responsible for the conflict; and (iii) develop and implement adaptive management strategies in some of the identified vulnerable areas through community engagement.