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

Tehelka - - THE MUSLIM PREJUDICE -

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

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