Thursday, 20 March 2014

India grapples with wildlife-human conflict

Conservationists call for a long-term solution to repeated clashes, Tuesday 18 March 2014 09.35 GMT

For nearly three months now, Indian hunters have been futilely pursuing a man-eating tiger, which has reportedly killed 10 people in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, near the famed Corbett National Park, a sanctuary for wildlife. Most victims were poor villagers attacked while taking cattle to graze, or collecting firewood.

Conflict between humans and animals has been steadily rising in India. A leopard ran through the small town of Meerut in February, and there have been increasingly frequent incidents of elephants clashing with humans.

With habitat for wildlife reducing, and some animal populations such as tigers and elephants steadily increasing, conservationists say India needs to figure out a plan to reduce conflict. Which may first begin with using the loaded word, man-eater, more circumspectly. Dr Ravi Chellam, wildlife and conservation biologist, says the word man-eater is overused, and often misused. "I prefer the term animals involved in conflict rather than man eater. Man-eater is a complicated term; there needs to be an investigation first into whether the animal has actually killed people, why and how and also to establish the identity of the individual animal. The benefit of doubt has to be given to the animal. Often, there isn't any such investigation, and people rush to call an animal a man-eater when it is really not."

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