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Human-Wildlife Conflict in India: Addressing the Source

Authors:
  • Wildlife Conservation Society, India.

Abstract

Approaches for resolving incidences of human-wildlife conflict such as predator attacks on people or livestock typically use methods that address physical loss but ignore social, cultural, and emotional trauma. To holistically and more permanently alleviate conflicts, wildlife management agencies and other conservation practitioners require resources and training in outreach and public relations, and need to expand their toolkit of approaches in order to connect with varied stakeholders in a greater diversity of settings.
COMMENTARY
Economic & Political Weekly EPW NOVEMBER 11, 2017 vol lIi no 45 23
Human–Wildlife Confl ict in India
Addressing the Source
Jennie Mi ller, John D C Linn elL, Vidya Athre ya, Subhar anjan Sen
Approaches for resolving incidences
of human–wildlife confl ict such
as predator attacks on people or
livestock typically use methods
that address physical loss but
ignore social, cultural, and
emotional trauma. To holistically
and more permanently alleviate
confl icts, wildlife management
agencies and other conservation
practitioners require resources and
training in outreach and public
relat ions, and need to expand their
toolkit of approaches in order to
connect with varied stakeholders
in a greater diversity of settings.
Wildlife managers and other con-
servation practitioners repre-
sent the wildlife they manage
or research. When wildlife damages peo-
ple’s property or affects the lives of fam-
ily and friends, these authorities are of-
ten required to step beyond their areas
of expertise and training to address the
needs of people. Managing people well—
especially in sensitive situations when they
have faced a serious personal loss to wild-
life—is critical to conserving wildlife.
But how exactly do you explain to a
stranger that her husband has been
mauled by a sloth bear, or tell a farmer
that a tiger has devoured his cow on
which he relies for his sustenance? Local
people’s interactions with the adminis-
tration—often considered a representa-
tion of wildlife itself—start with the way
in which people are treated as they
receive the news of such losses. These
moments can be traumatic and emotion-
ally charged, especially when it is a
human life that has been lost. The house-
holds wrestling with these losses are
then often expected to carry out long
protracted procedures to claim fi nancial
compensation payments, a process which
again defi nes their view of the larger ad-
ministrative and governmental system,
as well as shapes their future willingness
to engage with wildlife authorities and
tolerate the proximity of wildlife.
In such contexts, a conservation prac-
titioner’s “people skills” play a critical,
yet currently underappreciated, role. In
that fraught moment, the individual
who represents the authority is seen as
a custodian of the wildlife species caus-
ing the loss (livestock, crop or human).
They also take on another, greater role,
that of a human being reacting to the
loss of another human, one that re-
quires empathy, humility, and respect.
Some people possess these skills natu-
rally and make for very effective wild-
life managers with little need for fur-
ther training. For others, these skills
need to be taught and fostered by insti-
tutional culture. However, training in
dealing with people in trauma and con-
ict has not been an important part of
the curriculum for conservation biolo-
gists, practitioners, and wildlife manag-
ers. In this article, we build on our
collective experiences as conservation
professionals to discuss strategies re-
lated to public relations that could bet-
ter equip researchers, forest adminis-
trations, and other conservation practi-
tioners in caring for people as well
as wildlife.
Important Stakeholders
In December 2016, at the Central Indian
Landscape Symposium in Pench Tiger
Reserve, we sat in a room with other
conservation practitioners, researchers
and managers working on environmental
conservation in central India (and be-
yond), and sculpted our vision for an
India where spaces shared between
people and wildlife could be less damag-
ing to both sides. After we discussed our
way through species population counts
Jennie Miller (jmiller@panthera.org) is with
Panthera and the Department of Environmental
Science, Polic y, and Management at the
University of California, Berkeley.
John D C Lin nell ( john.linnell@nina.no) is with
the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research,
Trondheim, Norway. Vidya Athreya (vidya.
athreya@gmail.com) is with the Centre for
Wildlife Studies and the Wildlife Conservation
Society–India Program. Subharanjan Sen
(subhoranjan.sen@gmail.com) is with the
Madhya Pradesh Forest Department.
COMMENTARY
NOVEMBER 11, 2017 vol lIi no 45 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
24
and case studies of confl ict mitigation,
we realised that despite rigorous science
and numerous community-based con-
servation methods, one vital piece is
still often neglected: skills for dealing
with humans. India’s “boots-on-the-
ground” front-line staff, the Indian Forest
Service (IFS), who bravely broach the in-
terface between man and animal, and
are trained extensively in forest man-
agement, wildlife biology, and law en-
forcement, often lack resources and
pivotal training in public relations. Simi-
larly, the conservation biologists at uni-
versities and the practitioners from non-
governmental organisations (NGOs) are
often knowledgeable and passionate
about environmental needs and commu-
nity-orientated conservation initiatives,
yet are rarely trained in confl ict media-
tion. But insensitivity to people’s well-
being means that systems meant to
assist—such as fi nancial compensa-
tion—instead may insult and frustrate
the people that they are meant to help.
These issues are becoming increas-
ingly important as the arena for wildlife
conservation in India is shifting. After
decades of focus on effectively protec-
ting wildlife in the cores of protected
areas, studies are now shifting to exam-
ining the many species residing in the
wider landscape of forested buffer zones
and multi-use areas such as farmlands.
This expanded interface between hu-
mans and wildlife creates an entirely
new setting for both researchers and
management authorities where the tools
of the past are no longer adequate for
the future.
Researchers and management autho-
rities now need to be more proactive in
engaging with diverse stakeholders as
environmental stewards, rather than
view these people as threats or passive
bystanders, or wait to react after inci-
dents have occurred. Environmental
con servation in this wider landscape be-
yond protected areas now also requires
identifying important stakeholders and
then proactively engaging with them, be
they tribal communities, farmers, infra-
structure developers, mining corpora-
tions, or policymakers. It is time for our
conservation community to become fl u-
ent in the language of humanity—and
here we offer ideas and resources that
could assist us in the process.
Mediation and Empathy
Scientifi c evidence shows that people
base their behaviour towards wildlife
more on social factors than the realities
of wildlife threats (Dickman 2010;
Redpath et al 2012). A person’s social
network, social standing, gender, fi nan-
cial stability, beliefs and values all
contribute to their decisions about how
to engage with their environment. For
example, one social element that largely
shapes the attitudes and behaviour of
rural people in India, and worldwide, is
their relationship with local authorities
(Madden 2004; Ogra and Badola 2008),
such as the Forest Department. Whether
or not people trust and respect their
locally residing forest guard, can play an
important part in whether they choose
to engage with government progra-
mmes, such as those providing fi nancial
compensation for livestock losses, or suf-
fer the social and fi nancial burdens of
living alongside wildlife without support.
As fi rst responders to crisis situations
involving physical loss, conservation pra-
ctitioners frequently engage with people
who are experiencing intense emotions
as they wrestle with the loss of a family
member, precious resource, or income.
Trust, respect, cultural sensitivity, and
empathy are crucial elements of the pro-
fessional relationship that must be clearly
conveyed, not only as part of the human-
to-human connection, but as part of the
professional process of confl ict mitiga-
tion. Effi ciency and transparency in the
legal and fi nancial systems by which vic-
tims will be assisted are also necessary
to help them feel in control, at ease, and
assured of the next steps. We recognise
that maintaining trust, empathy, and
transparency will not always be easy,
especially i n situations when the aut hor-
ity is simultaneously reprimanding ille-
gal activities and compensating loss.
The Forest Department, for instance,
faces this challenge on a daily basis, and
offi cers and staff are highly skilled
at intercepting illegal forest activities.
Boosting staff training in public rela-
tions will create fundamentally stronger
relationships between local people and
forest offi cers that help mitigateand
possibly even prevent—confl ict situations.
With training in outreach, mediation
and confl ict intervention, the Forest
Department and other conservation
practitioners would enhance their abili-
ties to prevent the escalation of confl icts
and help victims receive the care and
resour ces they require. We recognise
that the Forest Department especially
is already overstretched in terms of
resources, and adding these new skills
will require extensive training of exist-
ing staff as well as employment of new
staff with different skill sets. However,
we believe that an initial investment in
these appro aches will produce long-
term bene ts.
Cultivating relationships that estab-
lish trust while maintaining authority is
a skill that requires formal training and
resources, just like any other professional
skill. Several resources and opportuni-
ties are available to assist with training.
For instance, the Human–Wildlife Confl ict
Collaboration is an NGO th at o ffer s t rain-
ings to governments (for instance, in
Bhutan, Uganda, and the United States)
and individuals in confl ict transforma-
tion with examples specifi cally relevant
to human–wildlife confl ict situations.
Additionally, the national- and state-
level forest services and departments
have highly structured, well-established
training programmes which offer the
opportunity to incorporate new lessons,
perhaps with insight from NG Os and
private companies that specialise in
confl ict mediation and trauma treatment.
A key fi rst step will be to introduce a set
of new modules into this programme
that emphasise the people skills men-
tioned earlier.
Expanding the Toolkit
Many conservation practitioners, espe-
cially senior government offi cials, oper-
ate in a system of established routines
and procedures; however, we must assess
whether existing confl ict management
methods, such as paying nancial com-
pensation in its present form, are actu-
ally effective. The Indian wildlife dam-
age compensation system is widely
viewed as being overly complex, non-
transparent, and slow, to the extent that
COMMENTARY
Economic & Political Weekly EPW NOVEMBER 11, 2017 vol lIi no 45 25
many victims of confl ict feel unable or
unwilling to engage with it (Agarwala
et al 2010; Karanth et al 2012; Ogra and
Badola 2008). This is especially true in
the case of compensation for crop dam-
age in central India. An accumulating
body of research from other countries
shows how making the same fi nancial
inve stments in proactive con ict preven-
tion (rather than reactive compensation)
can bring greater, and lasting, benefi ts.
“Performance payments,” in which com-
munities are rewarded for protecting
natural resources at a specifi ed level, re-
cently explored in Bandhavgarh National
Park, Madhya Pradesh, is one such ex-
ample (Zabel and Engel 2010).
Furthermore, certain subgroups of
people may be especially receptive to try-
ing new methods. For example, around
Kanha Tiger Reserve, owners who lose
livestock for the fi rst time to wild carni-
vores express greater willingness to shift
grazing grounds than owners who have
lost animals previously, indicating an
opportune time to educate and share
n ancial incentives with stakeholders
to help them protect their livestock (and
avoid any future negative retributions
against nature) (Miller et al 2016). There
exists a wide range of techniques for
protecting livestock better (Miller et al
2016). Many of these are already familiar
and being used in parts of India, such
as feeding livestock in stalls, housing
small stock in predator-proof enclosures
at night and using guard dogs to protect
livestock. However, many livestock
owners are not aware of such methods
or lack the resources to invest in them.
This is especially true in areas to which
predators return after periods of absence.
In addition, there are a range of newer
methods in use in other countries that
offer some benefi ts in certain situations,
including adry (coloured fl ags hung
on fences to deter predators) and solar-
powered fl ashing lights (Kermeliotis 2013).
These techni ques represent tools that
address the source of the problem by
reducing predator attacks and crop dam-
age rather than simply compensating
stakeholders who suffer losses post facto.
Through providing education and fi nan-
cial subsidies to livestock owners and
land owners, conservation authorities
and practitioners could more proactively
prevent confl icts, which would reduce
the need for confl ict mitigation in the
rst place.
Whichever technique is employed—
be it preventative or reactive—it must
include buy-in from the people receiving
the benefi t. This shifts responsibility from
the funder (for example, the forest de-
partment or a non-profi t) to the people.
Livestock owners who invest a percent-
age into protective infrastructure for
their livestock are more likely to main-
tain and properly use the structures in
the long term. Community-funded live-
stock insurance schemes (a popular tool
for snow leopard conservation) are an-
other exa mple of successful program mes
sustained through local commitment,
though they require initial start-up re-
sources and are probably better man-
aged in areas with low human density in
the higher Himalayas than in the dense-
ly populated settlements in the rest of
India. However, it is important that in-
novative new ideas set in the Indian so-
cial context are experimented with and
assessed for their effi cacy.
Conservation practitioners must also
draw on government nancial support
from agencies beyond the Ministry of
Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
Within the Ministry of Agriculture and
Farmer’s Welfare alone, for example,
there exist several additional potential
funding and logistics sources: the De-
partment of Animal Husbandry; Dairy-
ing and Fisheries; the Department of
Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers
Welfare; and the Department of Agricul-
tural Research and Education. Including
more diverse funding sources and stake-
holders will help address human–wild-
life confl ict in a more holistic way. The
need for cooperation between different
institutional sectors is crucial to scale up
best practices across the landscape, and
to better integrate policies so that they
work together rather than against each
other, as is sadly the case in many cir-
cumstances. Engaging at this level also
requires a specifi c set of skills that can
be taught and fostered.
India should be proud of its many
landscapes where people live alongside
large wildlife, since human respect and
tolerance for animals are higher here
than in most countries elsewhere in
the world. Bringing India into the 21st
century in a situation where species
like elephants, tigers, and leopards still
share space with 1.3 billion people is an
achi evement that the forest department
should be proud of. Yet, as the depart-
ment looks to the future, we must incor-
porate resources to stay adaptive, prag-
matic and progressive, and seek appro-
aches that improve the well-being of
people who sacrifi ce life and livelihood
for wildlife. Through infusing the medi-
ation around human–wildlife confl ict
incidences with greater humanity, acq-
uired through training in public rela-
tions, the IFS and other conservation
practitioners would be making key steps
in shifting the discourses of confl ict to
ones of coexistence.
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... Research pertaining to the study of ecology, diet, geography, distribution of attacks, and mitigation practices associated with the "conflictual" wildlife species dominated the treatment of the issue, often centered in and around protected areas (Edgaonkar and Chellam, 2002;Andheria et al., 2007;Athreya et al., 2013Athreya et al., , 2016Kshettry et al., 2017). Over time, the field of study has expanded, not only geographically to look at human-wildlife interactions in multi-use landscapes, cities, and other non-protected areas Chapron et al., 2014;Carter and Linnell, 2016;Landy, 2017;Miller et al., 2017;Dhee et al., 2019), but also ideologically to include the study of the numerous dimensions associated with human-wildlife interactions Aiyadurai, 2016;Crown and Doubleday, 2017;Doubleday, 2017;Bhatia et al., 2019;Nijhawan and Mihu, 2020). ...
... While efficiency in addressing real economic losses is an important factor in conflict mitigation, perceived efficiency and perceived risk are also important aspects defining humanwildlife relationships. Addressing human-wildlife conflict has to therefore also stem from understanding the perceptions and belief systems of the range of stakeholders in any landscape (Miller et al., 2017). ...
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Conservation conflicts are increasing and need to be managed to minimise negative impacts on biodiversity, human livelihoods, and human well-being. Here, we explore strategies and case studies that highlight the long-term, dynamic nature of conflicts and the challenges to their management. Conflict management requires parties to recognise problems as shared ones, and engage with clear goals, a transparent evidence base, and an awareness of trade-offs. We hypothesise that conservation outcomes will be less durable when conservationists assert their interests to the detriment of others. Effective conflict management and long-term conservation benefit will be enhanced by better integration of the underpinning social context with the material impacts and evaluation of the efficacy of alternative conflict management approaches.
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This paper examines people’s experiences with economic compensation for losses due to human–wildlife conflict (HWC) in Uttarakhand, India. Employing a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches, we used a case study approach to investigate (1) socio-economic characteristics of applicant versus non-applicant households, (2) explanations for why only some households chose to apply, and (3) perceptions of program effectiveness. We found that despite widespread complaints, the participation rate was only 37%. Our results broadly support the findings of other studies which have identified inadequate remuneration, processing delays, and corruption as key problems. However, we also found that non-participation was itself a critical problem. Our study indicates that participation in the scheme was shaped by factors including wealth, gender, social networks, and pre-existing expectations. We highlight the need for improved communication about what “compensation” can and should be, advocate for reconceptualizations of compensation that are more closely based on ground-level realities, and point to the potential for alternative forms of payment to be more sustainable and socially just.
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Human–wildlife conflict is one of the most critical threats facing many wildlife species today, and the topic is receiving increasing attention from conservation biologists. Direct wildlife damage is commonly cited as the main driver of conflict, and many tools exist for reducing such damage. However, significant conflict often remains even after damage has been reduced, suggesting that conflict requires novel, comprehensive approaches for long-term resolution. Although most mitigation studies investigate only the technical aspects of conflict reduction, peoples' attitudes towards wildlife are complex, with social factors as diverse as religious affiliation, ethnicity and cultural beliefs all shaping conflict intensity. Moreover, human–wildlife conflicts are often manifestations of underlying human–human conflicts, such as between authorities and local people, or between people of different cultural backgrounds. Despite evidence that social factors can be more important in driving conflict than wildlife damage incurred, they are often ignored in conflict studies. Developing a broader awareness of conflict drivers will advance understanding of the patterns and underlying processes behind this critical conservation issue. In this paper, I review a wide variety of case studies to show how social factors strongly influence perceptions of human–wildlife conflict, and highlight how mitigation approaches should become increasingly innovative and interdisciplinary in order to enable people to move from conflict towards coexistence.
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With growing pressure for conservation to pay its way, the merits of compensation for wildlife damage must be understood in diverse socio-ecological settings. Here we compare compensation programs in Wisconsin, USA and Solapur, India, where wolves (Canis lupus) survive in landscapes dominated by agriculture and pasture. At both sites, rural citizens were especially negative toward wolves, even though other wild species caused more damage. Wisconsin and Solapur differ in payment rules and funding sources, which reflect distinct conservation and social goals. In Wisconsin, as wolves recolonized the state, some periodically preyed on livestock and hunting dogs. Ranchers and some hunters were more likely to oppose wolves than were other citizens. The Wisconsin compensation program aimed to restore an iconic species by using voluntary contributions from wolf advocates to pay affected individuals more for wolf losses than for other species. By contrast, wolves had been continuously present in Solapur, and damages were distributed amongst the general populace. Government-supported compensation payments were on offer to anyone suffering losses, yet claims registered were low. There were no significant differences in attitudes of any particular segment of the population, but those losing high value livestock applied for compensation. Residents at both sites did not report (Wisconsin) or expect (Solapur) a change in attitude towards wolves as a result of compensation, yet they support the existence of such programs. To assess the merits of any compensation program, one must disentangle the multiple goals of compensation, such as reducing wolf killing or more fairly sharing the costs of conserving large carnivores.
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Biodiversity, including wildlife, is globally decreasing at alarming rates. This development has evoked calls for innovative conservation policies. In the present paper we explore the novel conservation performance payment approach which for wildlife–livestock conflicts, so far, has only been implemented in Sweden. The contribution of the paper is twofold. A structural framework of performance payments' design is developed and an empirical assessment of the approach to tiger–livestock conflicts at Bandhavgarh National Park in India, an example where conservation needs compete with humans' increasing demand for land and resources, is presented. The framework focuses on issues of scheme design such as identifying performance indicators, targeting, payment amount and timing, considerations on making payments to groups vs. individuals, scheme duration, and inadvertent side effects. The assessment of the applicability of the performance payment approach to tiger (Panthera tigris) conservation is based on a high-profile policy workshop, an interview with the park management, and 305 household-level interviews conducted in 20 villages in the buffer zone of the park.
Boy Scares Off Lions with Flashy Invention
  • T Kermeliotis
Kermeliotis, T (2013): "Boy Scares Off Lions with Flashy Invention," CNN, 26 February, http:// www.cnn.com/2013/02/26/tech/richardturere-lion-lights/index.html.
Effectiveness of Contemporary Techniques for Reducing Livestock Depredations by Large Carnivores
  • Jennifer R B Miller
  • J Kelly
  • Stoner
Miller, Jennifer R B, Kelly J Stoner et al (2016): "Effectiveness of Contemporary Techniques for Reducing Livestock Depredations by Large Carnivores," Wildlife Society Bulletin, Vol 40, No 4, pp 806-15.