It is a common notion that establishment of Protected Areas (PA) will intensify the menace of crop raiding by wild animals and increase livestock loss.
But contrary to all these beliefs, a recent study on human-animal conflicts conducted in three tiger reserves in the country - Ranthambore in Rajasthan, Kanha in Madhya Pradesh and Nagarhole in Karnataka which shares its border with Wayanad - finds that PAs need not always necessarily act as a source of crop raiders. It also notes that the complaints of carnivores attacking livestock or human were more associated with people grazing animals and collecting forest produce from inside the PA rather than outside it.
These findings are significant from the fact that a section of public and politicians opposing the establishment of Tiger Reserve in Wayanad has bluntly maintained that the creation of a Reserve will result in intensifying crop raids and increasing livestock loss.
The results of the study done by Krithi K Karanth, Executive Director of the Centre for Wildlife Studies (Bangalore) along with three other researchers is published in the Environmental Management Journal under the title ‘Living with Wildlife and Mitigating Conflicts Around Three Indian Protected Areas’.
It says that as part of the study, a survey was conducted among 398 households situated within 10 kilometers of three major tiger reserves and found that the rate of crop loss from crop raiders did not vary with the proximity to the PAs, showing that protected areas are not always sources for crop raiders.
“This suggests that the crop raiders may not be limited to animals coming out from the PA, and perhaps some raiders may naturally reside outside the PAs,” says the study.
In the case of livestock loss near tiger reserves, it notes that during the study, 13 percent of the households reported cattle loss from wild animals with leopard being identified as the most damaging.
“Respondents reported that livestock losses occurred inside the PAs during the day, and fewer incidents occurred at night when the livestock were corralled near their homes or villages,” finds the study.
Another major interesting fact that emerged from the study is that contrary to the wide belief that people are hostile towards carnivores that attack the livestock, the study found that people are more hostile towards herbivores like wild pig which cause damage to crops.
Analysing the effectiveness of the mitigation efforts, the study found two mitigation efforts - fencing and the use of guarding animals as the most effective in reducing the risk of crop loss from crop-raiding animals.