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The bloody trespass- man-animal conflicts

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By: Manzoor Ahmad Bhat
All species would eventually get extinct over the course of time. The drastic changes in environmental conditions would lead to extinction of large number of species in short course of time. The process of elimination of the species from the face of the earth is commonly called extinction and it is not something new and the process has been happening since the species came into being. The extinction of old species paves way for the formation of new species, the process leading to formation of a new species is called Speciation. The new species occupies the niche which earlier belonged to some other species.
Recently all social media platforms were abuzz with the unfortunate news of a baby becoming a victim of man-animal conflict and the disturbing news has since than raised concerns not only regarding the safety of people but also about the rapidity of such incidents. The man- animal confrontation has become a routine now and many lose their lives while many others are left badly injured-sometimes handicapped for the rest of their lives.
The heart-wrenching clip of the kid who was killed by the leopard at her home in Ompora, Budgam of J&K, was seen everywhere on the internet and the district administration declared the leopard as man-eater/rogue, and rightly so, directing the officials to eliminate the rogue leopard. Another such incident took place few days after it, wherein a bear seriously injured a nomadic man. The sighting of the wild animals in human habitations and around it has increased tremendously and people of those areas live in constant fear. Man-wildlife conflict occurs when wild animal pose a direct and recurrent threat to the life or livelihood of the man.
Humans are one of the species among these billions of the species created by nature and, as a matter of fact, have altered the diverse ecosystems as per their needs and the decision of changing the major characteristics of the ecosystems have proven unwise in the long run. Man has changed the composition of the ecosystems and has changed aquatic ecosystems to terrestrial, terrestrial to aquatic, grasslands into croplands and forests, the fragile mountain ecosystems have been made more fragile by changing the land use pattern of the area in the name of developmental projects.
Normally as environmental conditions change, species disappear at a low rate which is termed as background extinction. Biologists estimate that the background extinction rate is one to five species per million species per year. The extinction rates up and above the background extinction rates are called mass extinctions. In such events, 25 to 70% of the existing species are wiped out in a geological period lasting upto 5 million years. As of now, earth’s species have witnessed five mass extinctions.
The balance between the process of Speciation and extinction would determine the biodiversity of the earth. The existence of millions of species today over the course of billions of years of the earth’s existence indicates that the speciation has been ahead of the extinction.
All species live in a habitat. Habitat provides the species with all requirements of life like food, shelter, water, mate etc. Habitat is part of the ecosystem. In Ecosystem the species perform specific functions which help in the proper functioning of the ecosystem and in absence of the species, the functioning of the ecosystem is affected.
Man has become the greatest threat for the existing life scenario on this planet and ignorance as well as greed seems to have overcome his wisdom. He is using all other species as material objects to meet his wants while the over-utilization of wildlife has led to extinction of the species. The Wild animals are captured from the wilderness, many are hunted down for their Skin like tigers, leopards, cheetah etc. The rhinoceros are killed for the horns and the Elephants for tusks. Likewise, many wild animals are being killed for different products. The roles they perform in ecosystems are under-appreciated and many wildlife particularly faunal species are kept as Pets. The bears and monkeys are used as performing animals.
In most of the nation states, the killing and capturing of wild animals, termed as poaching, is banned and yet it goes on unabated. Usually the species whose populations have remarkably decreased and are likely to be in any of the conservation categories of IUCN are protected from killings or capturing as per the national legislation.
Every species has the right to live, as humans have. But unfortunately, this works only for the humans. In some cases, even the humans which are powerless are denied this right. Have you wondered why some animals are called game animals? Man has been hunting down some of the animals for the sport. The sadistic instinct is satiated and the one doing this cruel act derives pleasure from killing the animals. In earlier days, hunting of game animals used to be the favourite sport for the aristocracy.
The lot of clips about animal cruelty by humans comes up on social media quite often. The animals are being teased, injured or even killed by humans. One such horrific incident happened in Kerela where one pregnant elephant was fed the firecrackers, the firecrackers burst in her mouth resulting in severe injuries to the mouth. The elephant wasn’t able to eat and starved to death. This is one example of extreme cruelty and callous attitude, to say the least.
Let’s pause for a while and try to figure out why these man-wildlife confrontations have increased? The ways are to be looked upon which would lead to the coexistence of all species. Humans and wildlife have been living together since times immemorial. Some of the factors which have lead to increase in man wild-life conflicts are:
1. Habitat destruction and degradation: Habitat provides besides other things food for the organisms to sustain and organism is able to perform it’s ecological function. The destruction of the habitat would mean that the wild animals would have to move out of their habitats in search of the prey(food). In case of the habitat degradation, the prey species are lesser in number which are not able to sustain the top predators. So the predators move into human habitations in search of the food, which has now become deficient in its natural habitat due to its degradation.
2. Introduction to alien/non-native species: The native species have evolved in its habitat over the long period of time and have well adapted there. There are checks to keep the population of the species from increasing beyond the carrying capacity of an organism. In case of the primary and secondary consumers, there are top carnivores which limit their population growth, while in case of the top carnivores it is availability of food(prey) which keeps population of top predators under check. Most often, the non-native species don’t have natural predators in the new area, which results in their population bloom and are often becoming invasive species, driving out the native ones from the area. These invasive species could move into the human habitations owing to tremendous increase in the number leading to man-animal conflicts.
3. Competition: The domestic livestock are grazing on the natural habitats of wildlife species. These domestic animals overgraze these areas and leave very less grass for the wild grazers. These domestic animals outcompete the wild animals in grazing. The lesser food for the wild grazers would ultimately lead to lesser population of these animals which are the prey for the carnivores. Hence carnivores are not finding enough food resources in their habitats and roam into the residential areas in search of wood leading to confrontation between wildlife and man.
4. Encroachment: Man has moved into the territory of the wild animals. This has led to the conflicts between the two. Many a times, it is not the wild animals who have come into the human habitations. It is the humans who have set up their homes in their territory. Besides, human encroachments into the animal habitats are increasing the chances of the zoonotic diseases which may cause pandemics like Covid-19.
5. Habitat fragmentation: Roads, rail-lines, electric lines etc passes through the habitat of wild animals breaking the Habitat into smaller parts. The wild animals find it difficult to roam through these parts. Many times these wild-animals get run-over by the vehicles leading to their death. The wild animals at times get agitated by the human presence in the area and start attacking them.
The writer is Lecturer (EVS), GDC Kupwara. Feedback at [email protected]

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