Monday, February 11, 2019

Man Animal Conflict: Wild Elephants & Habitat Loss

Unearthing the Earth!

{Governments do not look beyond the projects! When framing a developmental project please spell out the environmental concern first! We do not want a rail line or a highway passing from a land belonging to other life forms in our precious habitats!}

First it was the rapid expansion of agriculture and settlements that decimated vast habitats in India. Now we have this development thing going with a jingoistic fervor beyond comprehension. The agriculture lands rapidly converted...taken away from wild animals or other life forms... were primarily forests and to some extent grasslands, not forgetting aquatic ecosystems that were destroyed in the wake. 

While in case of tigers, they were completely wiped out from denuded forests all over the country, the elephants clung to the remains and inaccessible regions since being coarse grazers they are not specialized hunters like the big cats. But their population grew in time to come especially, from ban on hunting which was a must. 

What we fail to realize is that floral diversity is the prey base of the elephants like in case of many other herbivores. It is this floral diversity we are losing in the country. Please do not look from the perspective of protected areas they constitute a miniscule of land. Conservation has to be widespread pervasive constructively.     

The pillage has resulted in severe man animal conflict vis a vis the pachyderm and man. As the elephants venture back into what were their earlier feeding grounds they find the urban assemblage highways, rails, canals, dams, settlements, industries and mining grounds apart from acres of fields to their consternation. 

Umbrage as results is difficult to manage and men die too with the animal being blamed for it. Sadly as consequence!  Electrocution, poaching, hunting, accidents all are decimating the population of pachyderms in India. 

Wildlife encroaching upon the fields is not greed they are not especially fond of agricultural produce in the country of rapidly shrinking habitats it is a necessity an act of survival. Wildlife encroachment into human settlements is not an aberration or desire to kill it is simply trying to recover lost homelands or gain more space in order to survive. 

But unfortunately human fields and settlements are full stops the poor animals are incapable of understanding. Take the case of Asiatic Lion in India issues have stood in the way and they have not been trans-located to other grounds so far. This will certainly result in conflict in their present area and the predator will be put to blame. I hope better sense prevails!         

All this reeks of a bad land management for conservation output. Draw a straight line and excavate...projects take priority...the development imperative.  

Now this question should arise how much land should we vacate before we lose all our endangered species and endanger those that are not...but in time to come. Do we have a time bound solution? 

Encroachment into prime habitats is not a hidden factor it is right in the open and dispensations pay two hoots to it. But creating more PAs and increasing the dimensions of existing PAs is definitely the answer. Restricting agrarian practices, preventing commercialization and unchecked development is the answer! This cannot be done outright that is quite evident but a more circumstantial approach should in place. But who has the time and initiative? All we see is personal bickering in the media and formulation of policies only based on human welfare. There is hardly any thought accorded to environmental concerns and conservation. Just creating institutions and acts is not enough proper implementation and rationale has to be a proper ongoing activity which we expect from the people at helm. The people of India would like to witness more committed and sincere approach towards conservation and environmental concerns in totality.             

Under the Project Elephant the Government has issued directives to Elephant States to create barriers  (sic) and trackers will study the movement of these animals to minimize conflicts. Is this the root cause management? One way to minimize conflicts with animals living in our wilderness is to accord more space. Are we willing? To many the suggestion would appear as gross illogical. Where will the humans go?        

The World we live in reeks of human prerogative and prejudice other life forms are mere elements that evolved along with man but are now inconsequential. 

Who is to blame? 

Fairly and squarely humans are to be blamed...and the act most damaging has been unchecked population growth, which continues to grow. The development imperative may not necessarily have to be due to the population of India bursting over the seams. Every dispensation is interested in managing the countries huge population (Vote Bank) irrespective of ecological cost that the Nation has to bear. Population growth should be checked with full vigor. Then comes the development factor which is erroneously blamed on the massive population. This would have been there even if the population check was in picture. 

Look at some developed countries there is nothing left but this modern human assemblage. Have they stemmed the rot that is the environment imbalances? No! The climate change is effecting one and all and to worsen the unchecked fossil fuel consumption is nothing but disastrous. So we too emulate them!      

India differs from many other Nations in that our conservation ethos date back to thousands of years and the message is still intact. If we do not stem the rot there will be no places for wilderness in the country and the result is already warming thanks to the climate change which will take a noticeable toll in time to come.       

Uday works as naturalist at Kanha National Park.
He writes on conservation issues and wildlife.