Human-wildlife clash

By March 22, 2021Global conservation

Asian Elephant chasing a photographer in India. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The Himalayan Times, The Himalayan Times | March 18, 2021

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Nepal’s conservation efforts have been considered a huge success, allowing endangered animals to thrive in the wild. This has been possible largely due to political commitment, law enforcement agencies’ crackdown on poaching and illegal trade in wildlife and body parts, and increased presence of the Nepali Army in the protected areas. Thousands of wildlife, including the Royal Bengal tiger and the one-horned rhinoceros, once roamed the dense jungles of Nepal’s Tarai plains, but it took no time for their numbers to dwindle, what with the excessive huntings carried out by members of the Royal family and their foreign guests. This led to the establishment of Nepal’s first national park in Chitwan in the 1970s to protect, namely, the tiger and the rhino. Today Nepal boasts of 12 national parks, one wildlife reserve, six conservation areas, one hunting reserve and 10 Ramsar sites to protect different endangered species of flora and fauna. Although Nepal’s conservation efforts have borne fruit, the increasing number of human-wildlife conflicts, often involving human casualties, in recent years poses a major challenge. In just one month, from mid-February to mid-March this year, three people were killed in wildlife attacks near the Chitwan and Bardiya National Parks and buffer zones.

There could be many reasons for the growing human-wildlife conflict. But increasing human encroachment of their habitat in the dense forests has forced the wild animals to venture out into the buffer zones and people’s settlements in search of food and grazing land. Human-wildlife conflict had already begun in the Sixties when people from the hills migrated to the plains in search of cultivable farmlands, often settling in and around the forest areas. However, the situation has gotten severe in recent times due to the ever-expanding settlements caused by population growth. There is thus competition between wildlife and humans for shared natural resources such as wood and grass, among others.

Such conflicts impact people’s food security as well as the well-being of both humans and animals. And when there is injury or death from wildlife attacks, it is only natural for the people to become hostile against the animal involved.

Studies show that the frequency, severity and timing of wildlife attacks differ from animal to animal.

Animals such as the tiger, rhino and bear attack humans mostly inside the protected areas while the elephant and leopard do so in human settlements. The Asiatic elephant and common leopard have shown to be mostly involved in attacks on people, with the elephant causing extensive damage to crops and property. Thus, solutions must be found on a caseby-case basis. Human-wildlife conflict is here to stay and cannot be wished away. Therefore, ways must be found to mitigate the conflict so that humans and wildlife can exist in peace. Whether it is effective land use planning, providing compensation for the damage caused by wildlife or sharing of natural resources, the community must be involved to find a durable solution. If wildlife continues to roam the jungles still, it is due to the concerted efforts of the government and local communities.

House sans business

The seventh session of the revived House of Representatives (HoR) was held on March 7 following the Supreme Court’s order that it be held within 13 days from the date of its verdict on February 23. The first day of the session saw a ruckus in the House due to the opposition’s boycott over the government’s decision to table a controversial ordinance that amended the Constitutional Council Act. The ordinance has a provision that a majority of the Council members can take a decision even if the opposition leader is not present in the meeting.

The HoR has been deferred time and again due to lack of business. The House meetings were held twice only to pass condolences over the demise of sitting and former lawmakers. It is the responsibility of the government to provide business to the parliament for discussion. But the government has not provided any business to the House deliberately because of the growing animosity between the Speaker and PM KP Oli as well as the uncertain future of the incumbent government. The PM, Speaker and the political parties need to sort out their political differences at the earliest so that the House can function smoothly before it is prorogued.