-Dr. Moushumi Bhattacharjee
The man-animal conflict is a major conservation concern in countries surrounded by a rich bio-diversity. Every now and then we come to know of some sort of conflicts between the so-called members of our civilized society with the members of forests – the leopards, tigers, monkeys, and of course the elephants.
With the rise in the expansion of human settlements and agricultural fields across India, there has been a widespread loss of habitat for the wildlife creatures, degraded forage, reduced landscape connectivity, and a significant decline in populations. As their habitats shrivel, these animals increasingly come in closer contact with people, resulting in more frequent and severe conflict over space and resources with consequences ranging from crop-raiding to reciprocal loss of life.
The recent heinous incident that shook the entire nation, took place in Palakkad village of Kerala, where the pregnant elephant was fed with pineapple filled with crackers resulting in her painful death. The incident has prompted outrage from several sections of the society with celebrities and politicians, including cricketer Virat Kohli, industrialist Ratan Tata, and BJP MP Maneka Gandhi, joining hands against this barbaric act of the villagers. This kind of support reassures our belief that human feelings are not dead and there are people who still have concern and love for the wild animals.
But there is always another side to the story. Beyond the initial outrage, we must try to understand the core issues that lead to this kind of a situation when an elephant wanders into human territory to extend their range and raid crops to meet their energy requirements. During such incursions of elephants into villages or agricultural land and human forays into forests, confrontation is inevitable.
Monkey menace is another issue that keeps on hitting the newspapers both in rural and urban areas. Every year farmers from Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu Kashmir, Karnataka, bear a huge loss as their crops get destroyed by the wild troop of monkeys. Not just village residents, even city dwellers also struggle to cope with monkey menace. Leopards sneaking into residential areas, and thereby attacking the local residents is another common phenomenon of the man-animal conflict. As per official reports, every day on an average one leopard gets killed in India because of its intrusion into the human habitat.
But then, the question still remains the same as how to stop this man-animal conflict? The solution to all our questions is our ignorance towards these issues – unplanned development, deforestation, loss of habitat, the burden of overpopulation, no physical barriers around the agricultural land et all. Man-animal conflict is a real issue, and we understand that many farmers who suffer a loss due to foray of wild animals also belong to a marginal class, however, this does not permit them to take law in their hands thereby killing the innocent creatures.
Human-elephant conflict remains universal as the majority of existing prevention strategies are focused on area-specific factors that only offer short-term solutions, while the moderation strategies frequently transfer conflict risk from one place to another. It’s high time for us to realize the critical importance of finding a solution to bring an end to this disgraceful behavior against the voiceless animals, and let us all unite to raise our voice as ‘theirs’.
Dr. Moushumi Bhattacharjee is a Folk Media enthusiast and works as a guest faculty in the Department of Communication and Journalism, Gauhati University.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org