TODAY -

People - animal conflict: A worry for elimination of wild species

Rahul Ashem *



Animals need space to live. Most wild animals lost their homes because of the growing needs of human. Unfortunately, people-animal conflict is a worry for elimination of wild species. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural resources (IUCN) defined people-animals conflict as an encroachment by animals on human habitation areas, with costs both to people and wild animals.

Species like small cat’s family, dog’s family and even Mustelids, Viverrids and Sciuridae families were often in conflict with humans for reducing their access to resources. Most of these families kill livestock and poultry for easy prey. In turn, more habitats of these families have been lost as a result of human population growth and development.

Presently, majority of the wild species are affected by urbanization and its traditional methods. Clearance, fragmentation and degradation of forests are the natural factor threatening the wild community. Moreover, illegal trapping, accidental deaths and change in natural resources result to loss of wild community.

Overall, human not only plays a major role in affecting the viable population of wild animals but also has a broader environmental impact on ecosystem equilibrium and biodiversity conservation. The recent incidence of disruption caused by wild species in every corner of the state was one of the strongest variables influencing the attitudes of local people.

The impact is more particular in smaller animals in terms of the scale of their impact on humans. Species like Leopard cat (Keijenglang), Civet (Moirang sathibi), Martens (Sabeng) and even Flying squirrel (Kheroi achouba) are usually killed or displaced. Certain analysis links the presence of wild dogs (Huithou) during recent attack on domestic animals.

The first incidence was reported in south district of Churachandpur and it spread to various districts of Kangpokpi, Kakching, Imphal west and Imphal east respectively. In order to maintain the situation, possible factors were taken up by the concerned department to catch the predators at the earliest. Historically, people-animal conflict dates back to human prehistory period.

The earliest form of conflict occurred in the form of predation of ancestors of prehistoric man and early hominoids. Today, conflict occurs in several different contexts as either loss of wild animals or loss of life or property in some form or the others. Such incidences are now observed in urban and surrounding periphery areas also. Majority of the Keijenglang have lost their natural habitat over the last decades in Manipur.

Their numbers have correspondingly declined and many remaining populations are now isolated and confined to remote areas. Besides, Clouded leopard, Golden cat (Tokpa), Jungle cat (Lam houdong) and Fishing cat are rarely seen and are difficult to observe at present. Studies suggest that people small cat’s conflict is one of the important impediments to the future conservation.

Activities such as habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation led to the shortage of prey populations and the number of domestic livestock raised near their habitat is steadily increasing. An expected result is that the cats start preying on the livestock for easy prey. Whereas, many local people are dependent on their livestock for sustenance and income, so when livestock predation occurs, cats are captured and taken to zoos, killed in retaliation or actively persecuted to prevent similar events happening in the future.

Some other smaller carnivores are also responsible for attacks on livestock; species of Viverrids (Moirang sathibi families) as they survive in human dominated environments. Furthermore, Mustelids (Sabeng families) have a history of co existence with people as they have the ability to often raids on hen coops. However, there are a few exceptions, mostly linked to ancestral and totemic respect.

These include the Chupacabra, alien species or even some unknown creature. Local beliefs have an impact on the occurrence of some other incidence. The fatalism associated with such cases may, to some extent, explain the apparent lack of concern shown by people in their daily exposure to such phenomenon.

Elaborate as “carelessness” this lack of any attempt to take even rudimentary precautions against attack, together with the repeated and frequent exposure to risk in the face of known and often recently demonstrated risk is difficult to understand.

Additionally, the appearance of wild dogs (Huithou) is very similar to various canids including Jackal, Fox, Wolves and Domestic dogs. They are primarily a crepuscular forager but can hunt at any time of the day or night. The current status, abundance and distribution of Huithou population in Manipur are very uncertain.

Like domestic dog in features, the wild dog is with the long, larky body of the wolf. It has black bushy straight tail, usually held slightly lower than horizontal. The black tail is bushier in comparison to Jackal and Wolves. Besides, Jackal is less social and usually seen alone or in pairs. The interesting character of jackal is the living of male and female for whole life which is very uncommon in other species of mammals’.

In contrast to other Canidae, wild dogs have extremely well-developed jaw muscles, which gives their angular head an almost hyaena look alike appearance. Foxes are generally smaller than the wild dogs with beautiful coat and brushy tail. Domestic dogs are very expressive in their facial expressions, particularly when they are getting attention from humans. They bark, yelp or growl to communicate with each others.

A unique feature of Huithou is a characteristic whistle, repeated at intervals, which they use as a contact call when they are unable to sight other pack members, and wishes to reassemble after a hunt or re-group after separation.

Today, people-animal conflicts are one of the greatest threats to local species extinctions. Another adverse effect of the conflict is the killing of domestic animals by predators. In this case, both the people and wild animals are in conflict. Therefore, the best method is addressing both sides of the equation and finding a balance between conservation priorities and the needs of people who live alongside wildlife.

Awareness programme must be done so that people continue the habit and practice of co-existence with wildlife in the State. Fragmentation of wildlife should be avoided to the possible extent and proper care must be taken so that corridors are not disturbed. Information about local people’s knowledge and perceptions about conservation is important in wildlife conservation.

In an optimistic scenario, education and training would promote commitment towards conservation, raise awareness of the essential role of wildlife in ecosystem functioning and its ethical and economic value, as well as its recreational and aesthetic importance. A web-based portal is the need to develop in order to provide conflict databases, remediation technologies, good management practices, and innovative solutions and their outcomes.


* Rahul Ashem wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at benthhook(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on January 10, 2019.



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