It is no surprise or exaggeration that habitats have shrunk all over the world. It is also no exaggeration that we talk at great length on the glaciers melting, ice caps fading away and climate change affecting the sustainability and livelihood of people around the world in so many different ways. It is indeed equally difficult to think, how wild animals, particularly the mega fauna are forced to emerge out of the natural habitats and thereby caught in the whirlpool of protection v/s conflict.
One of the famous you tube video of a tiger leaping to the top of the elephant when cornered was an emotional challenge to understand how the tigress was lurking around for so long outside the park boundaries. The tigress was primarily looking for its two cubs which had walked away outside the park. Mother was looking for the two cubs and got caught up with the human surroundings. The forest department made a valiant attempt to push back the tiger thereby stressing it further. It is true that elephants and tigers maintain a healthy distance and not get into a direct challenge of power in the wildlife area. The point of course is the tiger saw a different area of life and least did it expect a stressful encounter with the humans outside its comfort zone.
The unending stories of other wildlife animals particularly the mega fauna straying outside the national park boundaries is continuing to emerge time and again. Our reactions to such conflict / movement of wildlife in our surroundings, which at one time earlier was the mega fauna's rightful place is one of panic and at times retaliation. In the city of Bangalore, a large city with nearly 10 million people, on two edges of the city - North and South, the wildlife conflict continue to escalate. On the Southside is the Bannerghatta National Park that has a contiguous connection to other wildlife sanctuaries. At one time Bannerghatta was a good 10 kms away from human habitation, which at present is hardly 500 meters away from the national park boundaries. On the north side of the city, the rocky outcrop of Doddaballapur and beyond has been heavily mined and since the emergence of the new airport the demand for real estate has increased 10 fold.
On the Southside elephants are walking into the small farms and on the northside leopards have come into the human habitation looking for livestock and other small prey species. In both scenarios human deaths, animal deaths have been increasing and the reactions by the officials, the locals and the researchers have been one of anxiety, and fear. It is not a one off incident that can be brushed aside either. It continues time and again, as human habitation has expanded inch by inch all the way to the original homes of the wildlife.
This article that came today on Yale Environment 360 blog post talks about similar incidents and the future of conservation scenario. Until now the emphasis was more on the habitat protection, species conservation funded by many leading global funding agencies. As it stands, it is a think line that separates the wildlife boundaries and villages. In some places, it even overlaps as the encroachment has stretched beyond consideration. As we continue to ascertain the necessity of co-existence in diverse demographics and landscapes, it is time the focus of conservation too engage towards co-habitation. Is this a healthy trend at all? Not necessarily either!!! There is a particular way wildlife in the wild lands survive and the same wildlife in the urbanized land have to adapt!!! That is another topic of interest all together!!! For now, we need to address if we are going to live in conflict everyday or to understand the new way of life surrounded by mega fauna around us in the habituated landscape!
Dr. Thomas Grant
Professor of Journalism at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College