JUST HOW MANY IS TOO MANY
A zero-damage arrangement of co-existence is non-existent. But man-animal conflict will continue to get ugly as long as conservation is for conservationists’ sake
AS ORGANISERS of the 21st International Bear Conference were busy receiving guests from 37 countries last weekend, news reached New Delhi that villagers in Kashmir had set a bear ablaze earlier in the week. Television news channels showed the desperate animal climbing a tree and the crowd reaching for it with burning clothes tied to a pole. Its pelt on fire, the bear jumped off and fled the murderous mob.
Six years ago, another bear was not as lucky. Another lynch mob in a Srinagar village stoned, thrashed and burnt the animal alive. Last year, villagers in Uttarakhand poured kerosene on a trapped leopard in transit and charred it in the presence of top forest officials. Shocking footage of both attacks made it to the national media.
Though gruesome, such assaults on the wild, particularly carnivores, are not aberrations. Man-animal conflict has always been real and is getting progressively worse. Space crunch due to exponential growth and development of human population and the resulting loss of wild habitat is the prime driver. Rapid colonisation of forests also brings settlers who are not used to living near wild animals. The result is frequent violation of the terms of co-existence, resulting in casualties on both sides.
One dangerous outcome of such ignorance and intolerance is the policy of capturing and shifting so-called problem animals elsewhere. This ends up fuelling, even creating, conflict because the displaced carnivores, often traumatised after prolonged captivity, try to find their way