(SANSAD TV: Perspective)
March 4: No Wild, No Life- https://youtu.be/OT8re5N-B4g
- GS-3: Environment, Conservation, Climate Change
No Wild, No Life
Context: Humans rely on wildlife and biodiversity-based resources to meet all our needs from food to fuel, medicines, housing, and clothing. Millions of people are also dependent on nature as the source of their livelihoods and economic opportunities.
- According to data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, over 8,400 species of wild fauna and flora are critically endangered, while close to 30,000 more are understood to be endangered or vulnerable.
- As per this data 239 faunal species which are known to occur in India are classified as endangered species which includes 45 species of mammals, 23 species of birds, 18 species of reptiles, 39 species of amphibians and 114 species of fishes.
- India has a network of 733 Protected Areas including 103 National Parks, 537 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 67 Conservation Reserves and 26 Community Reserves covering approximately 4.89 percent of country’s geographical area.
Some examples of human-wildlife conflict include:
- Predation on livestock or domestic animals by wild animals
- Damage to crops and fences
- Wildlife strewing about residential garbage
- Vehicle/wildlife collisions, aircraft/bird collisions
- Damage caused by squirrels or bats to fruit and fruit trees
- Bird nesting in undesirable residential locations
Reasons for man-animal conflict:
- Expansion of human settlements into forests – expansion of cities, industrial areas, railway/road infrastructure, tourism etc.
- Allowing livestock to graze in forest areas
- Land use transformations such as change from protected forest patches to agricultural and horticultural lands and monoculture plantations are further destroying the habitats of wildlife.
- Unscientific structures and practices of forest management in the country
- Infestation of wildlife habitat by invasive exotic weeds leads to decreased availability of edible grasses for wild herbivores
- Decreased prey base caused by poaching of herbivores has also resulted in carnivores moving out of forests in search of prey and to indulge in cattle lifting.
India’s Conservation culture
- Despite a billion people India still has most of our large wildlife species- India today has the largest population of the tiger, Asian elephant, leopard, sloth bear, gaur and many others
- Part of Culture: People have accepted coexistence of human & animals, and incorporated it in our culture. All our deities have animals associated with them; it shows the inclusion of these animals in our mind space.
- The Velip community in Goa worship the tigers and this practice is done even today.
- Animals are viewed also as renewable resource: Unlike activities such as mining, tigers are a renewable resource. They are always going to be there, and so will the rivers and the forests, giving the local people income and development — as long as there are tigers.
Innovative practices to minimise man-animal conflicts
- In the Western Ghats of India, a new conservation initiative has utilized texting as an early warning system to prevent human-elephant encounters. Elephant tracking collars embedded with SMS chips automatically text nearby residents, warning them of recent elephant movements.
- In Canada, authorities have constructed wildlife corridors, areas of preserved native habitat in human dominated regions, providing wildlife with a safe pathway as they travel between one to another.
- To keep elephants at a safe distance from their farms and homes, some African villagers have turned to two unlikely, all-natural solutions: bees and hot peppers. Elephants dislike the chemical capsaicin found in chili peppers, prompting farmers in Tanzania to smother their fences with a mixture of oil and chili peppers.
Tackling Man-Animal Conflict:
- Discouraging Unplanned Urbanization: Urbanization should take place in a planned way. Effort should be made to ensure that the wildlife habitats gets disrupted as little as possible,
- Considering landscape in entirety: Rather than protecting only the protected areas, the national sanctuaries or communities of the Biosphere Reserve we need to consider the landscape in entirety. This will help in not only reducing the man and animal conflict but the larger biodiversity will also be protected.
- Maintaining road ecology: Fragmented habitats should be reconnected by using over- or under passes that allow the safe movement of animals across roads. Fencing can also be used to direct animals to safer places to cross or prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions in areas of highest risk.
Wildlife Conservation- Steps required:
Wildlife Protection and enjoying wildlife should be made part of our ethos.
- Increasing the level of awareness: Running awareness campaigns at the state, district and local level. Awareness among people who are not so educated who are living in remote areas is low because they don’t have access to any knowledge systems so we need to have campaigns through which they can learn, understand what is biodiversity, why do we need to protect them and about the importance of biodiversity in maintaining our agricultural ecosystems. Role of civil society in creating awareness especially in remote areas is immense.
- Catching them young: In the school talk about environment and wildlife should be done more seriously. We need to actually take the children to the heart of biodiversity places so as to sensitise them. The school curriculum must include lessons on importance of wildlife and biodiversity and also steps required to conserve them.
- Amending the WPA, 1972: The Wildlife Protection Act which is under Amendment for many years. It must be amended by incorporating provisions of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) and enhancing the penalties for offences such as poaching.
- Protecting the Wildlife Corridors: It vital to protect critical wildlife corridors. Large infrastructure projects that cut across well-known wild animal passages—such as the construction of a new highway, train line or power plant—must be sanctioned after thorough scrutiny.
- Adopting landscape protection approach: As sixty percent of the country’s wildlife exist outside these protected areas, GOI needs to have more of a landscape protection approach rather than just concentrating and focusing on the national parks and the protected areas.
*As of December 15, 2021 | Source: Wildlife Protection Society of India
*up to December 2020
Source: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change; Aug 9, 2021
We need to marry the question of biological diversity, its preservation, the protection of wildlife and healthy wellbeing for human beings all together from the level of citizenry. Conservation is not a project, but a long-term commitment and relationship to a landscape. It’s not just based on science and laws, but has a strong grounding in society. The quality of wildlife can be improved by not only protecting them but by ensuring that the citizens actually enjoy the wildlife as something that is their heritage.