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Human-wildlife conflict still a major problem

Despite implementing various strategies, human-wildlife continues to be a major problem for the farmers.

The depredation of livestock in the country dropped from 132 in 2012 to 51 in 2014. The number further dropped to 41 in 2015. However, forestry officials say the trend cannot be understood as decreasing human-wildlife conflict.

According to the State of the Nation report, 70 percent of farmers in the country reported crop damaged by wildlife. About 12 percent of farmers reported loss of livestock to wildlife.

To better understand human wildlife conflict within a conceptual framework, identify emerging best practices and to develop an overview of the conflict in Asia including causes and impacts, the third Asia Protected Areas Partnership (APAP) workshop was conducted in Thimphu from November 6-8. The workshop highlighted the importance of mitigating human-wildlife conflict to protect rural livelihoods and to maintain biodiversity.

Sarpang’s Chief Forestry Officer, Phub Dhendup, said that insurance schemes were introduced in communities as intervention measures for loss of livestock and crop damage. “To ensure the sustainability of the insurance scheme, the ownership of the fencing and development of by-laws is transferred to the community. By-laws are made in consultation with the people.”

About 48 compensation schemes are being implemented in the country today.

In addition to the insurance scheme, mitigation approaches include making people aware about the conflict, forming quick response team in the community, enriching habitat through plantations, creating waterholes, and removing invasive species.

Some of the existing management measures are solar and electric fencing, trenches, blank firing by foresters, and alarms. It was found that on an average in a year, farmers spend about four months guarding the crops at night.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said that the human-wildlife conflict is becoming a serious threat to the survival of endangered species and is posing threat to human livelihood. “While conservation is equally important, we must seek an acceptable balance between conservation and livelihood concerns. People’s livelihoods should not be compromised while conserving wildlife.”

He added that the increasing trend of the conflict has put many farming communities under serious threat in recent decades.

International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) head of Natural Resources Group, Scott Perkin (PhD), said that the frequency and severity of the conflict has increased causing serious negative impacts, loss of income, reduced food security, restricted livelihood, injury and loss of life. “Often it is the poorest members of the community that suffer the most.”

About 54 participants attended the workshop that was funded by the Japan’s environment ministry, Republic of Korea’s environment ministry, International Centre for Mountain Development (ICIMOD), United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) Bhutan, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Bhutan.

Rinchen Zangmo

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