News Karnataka
Friday, June 02 2023

Knowledge, key to mitigation of human wildlife conflict: Vidya Athreya

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Mangaluru: A workshop on dealing with leopards and elephants in human-use landscapes was organized by wildlife conservation society (WCS) India in collaboration with Mangaluru Press Club, D.K Working journalist’s association, Kudremukh wildlife foundation.The workshop was aimed at informing and bringing about awareness among the  participants on  human animal interactions and the resulting conflicts. It called upon the media to actively take part in wild life conservation by  providing information and awareness of the subject through the media.

Wildlife conservation societyThe workshop was inaugurated by Dr Prabhakar Sharma, Executive Director, Pilikula Nisargadhma by lighting the lamp.

The workshop had consisted of  two talks, a documentary screening and interaction.  The researchers provided recent findings on the studies related to leopards and elephants and lamented the inabilit of humans to deal pragmatically with wildlife in human landscapes.

Human Animal conflict is man made
The experts shared simple dos and don’ts that can be communicated to the general public during times of need to keep themselves safe. It also aimed to showcase the crucial role played by media in preventing conflicts, and helping reduce losses to both people and wildlife, by spreading awareness among people.

Dr Vidya Athreya Research Associate with WCS,India gave insights on Human-Leopard interactions.
She has been studying human-leopard conflict in Maharashtra for the past decade. She also works closely with Protected Area managers and the public to mitigate conflicts involving big cats.

Leopards are the most adaptable of the large cats inhabiting a diverse variety of habitats and feeding off a wide variety of prey. Dogs are their most common prey. Old British gazetteers also mention leopards coming to villages to pick up dogs and goats implying that leopards have been using human use landscapes for a very long time. It’s not surprising that wild animals do not follow man made boundaries, the maps which we have drawn for our administrative use. How can animals understand our maps and they will be where there are resources for them, she said.

The research done by WCS shows that, leopards are capable of living outside forests, were there is a high density of people and surprisingly with very low levels of conflict. Dogs become important component of their diet. During day time they are not active in human use areas, and they move only during the night, even going to houses to prey on dogs and goats. They do not attack humans, even though they have high potential to do so. The research work also finds that capturing leopards simply because they are seen can increase conflict. A dialogue with stake holders namely forest dept, media, police dept and the public is must and it has given results in Maharashtra according to Dr. Athreya.

“Leopards don’t listen to humans at all, and is difficult to handle them. Micro chipping and putting GPS collar to leopards have helped us to trace their locations and movements. Leopards are mostly found in crop lands rather than forest. Removal of wild animals will not work as others come and occupy the vacant place and it’s difficult to do so. Trapping the leopards is not the solution, but it worsens the situation. So a knowledge based interaction is necessary to make both the lives of human and wild animals more peaceful”.

Role of Media
Following this education session, Virat Singh, of the Mumbai press club spoke on the role of media in reporting wildlife-human interactions.
He said that Mumbai being a city of very high density of people, leopards are often spotted of the Metropolitan region and these leopards are moving across the landscape and not isolated to the park even today. Sanjay Gandhi national park is one of the four urban national parks in the world. It houses 30 leopards and in the past there have been incidents of human-animal conflict. Various reasons make the leopards use human use areas; they do not understand man-made boundaries.

“The forest dept has now moved away from trapping to increased dialogue with people. It has also engages Police dept, media, residents, scientist to change the perception of the people. He said as media we have a very important and responsible role to play to make sure the right knowledge reaches the people so that such situations are resolved peacefully and do not pressurize the administration to take knee jerk actions that can lead to increased conflict”, he said.

A documentary on “Living with elephants” was screened and the interaction that followed was lively and informative.

Wildlife conservation society

Wildlife conservation society

Wildlife conservation society

Wildlife conservation society

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