BENGALURU: With high losses of cattle due to continuing conflicts around tiger reserves, farmers are holding fewer livestock. A study done in and around Nagarhole and Bandipur reveals that cattle loss rates are very high, and therefore, there was a need to shift from local to hybrids.
Cattle grazing in and around protected areas, especially tiger reserves in Karnataka, has led to livestock injury and deaths from big cats and leading to direct economic losses to farmers. Such losses continue to derail conservation efforts as affected farmers retaliate against wildlife or appeal for capture of tigers. Scientists recommend specific improvements to existing conservation policies and regulations to support local livelihoods and protect natural habitats.
Scientists of Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bengaluru, and Duke Kunshan University, China, conducted studies in giant panda habitat in China and tiger habitat of Karnataka. They studied the relationship between livestock-rearing in China and India, and its potential implications for the conservation of flagship species such as the tiger in India.
They conducted 281 socio-economic household surveys in China and 369 surveys in India in 2018. This research aimed to understand the impact of livestock loss on livestock holding size and rearing as a livelihood. They further conducted a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether “domestic or hybrid breeds” were more profitable.
Dr Krithi Karanth, co-author of the study, says, “As we grapple with the need to protect and maintain habitats for tigers, we must create jobs for local people that are affordable and pragmatic through social enterprises and market tools that promote sustainable livelihoods. In India, the shift from domestic to hybrid cattle has seen a decrease in predation incidents.
This shift must be encouraged with help from the government and NGOs.” By shifting to hybrid cattle, households may be able to simultaneously increase their profits and reduce the risk of human-wildlife conflict. Some households in their survey were hesitant to convert entirely to hybrid breeds due to cultural reasons. Hybrids are likely to be stall-fed rather than grazed unguarded in fields or near the forests, therefore resulting in lower depredation. So, scientists recommend that conservation policies should be devised to provide alternative livelihood options for vulnerable communities living alongside conflict-prone tigers or leopards and also protect key habitats of flagship species.