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Man-animal conflict a major concern for States

By Aarti Dhar

NEW DELHI, AUG. 7. Man-animal conflict is emerging as a major concern for the States in the recent years. This increasing war for space and food between men and animals has come into focus after about a dozen people were mauled and killed by a leopard within the vicinity of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai. As many as 45 persons have been killed by leopards across the country in the last three years.

Shrinking space and shortage of food often forces wild animals towards populated areas. This friction results in the loss of life and property. The States have been compensating for the loss in terms of money but they now find it difficult to meet the rising demands for monetary relief. This was obvious at the two-day conference of the State Forest Ministers held here earlier this week. State after State sought more funds from the Ministry of Environment and Forests for payment of compensation for raids by wild animals.

In the densely forested Madhya Pradesh, on an average 30-35 cases of loss of human life, 700-800 injuries to people and 250-300 cases of killing of domestic animals and cattle are reported every year. Acute drought is also an important reason for wild animals wandering into the farmlands in Tamil Nadu. In the past 5 years, 100 people were killed and 52 seriously injured and 781 hectares of crop damaged. An amount of Rs. 61.50 lakhs was paid as compensation to the affected.

Studies show that the changing land use pattern in the peripheries of protected areas due to demographic changes is affecting wildlife habitats. These pressures influence the movement pattern, habitat utilisation and behaviour leading to regular increase in the race for survival between man and animals.

There was a persistent demand from the participants at the conference to evolve quick and effective responses to such situation. The Uttaranchal Forest Minister, Nav Prabhat, pointed out that a leopard in a national park near Mumbai draws national attention, but few realise that the State has lost 121 human lives in the past three years while 225 people have been injured. Elephants, blue-bulls and monkeys are some species responsible for a high level of conflict. "The issue of crop insurance supported by the Centre needs to be taken up as such losses hit our small and marginal farmers very hard," he appealed. The problem of conflict between man and animals, particularly monkeys and blackbucks, in Andhra Pradesh is so acute that if funds are not released by the Centre to tame these, the State foresters will have no choice but to kill them. The State has sought Rs. 550 lakhs and Rs. 800 lakhs to initiate projects to tackle monkeys and blackbucks respectively.

While deaths caused by the clash of interests among people get due attention, precious lives lost in the man-animal conflict go unnoticed.

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