Rising intolerance towards wildlife

The declining tolerance for wildlife among the agrarian communities around Bandipur Tiger Reserve is due to economic issues, revealed a recent study by scientists.

According to the report 'The production of human-wildlife conflict: A political geography of encounter', there is little conflict because of tolerance towards wildlife and lifestyle changes.

Authors, Jared D Margulies, from University of Sheffield, UK and Krithi K Karanth from Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS), state that local economics like the rise in coffee prices, exclusionary state approach prohibiting grazing in protected areas and shift from the low cost of traditional livestock to expensive hybrid cattle has resulted in the declining tolerance for wildlife.

The research was conducted from 2015 to 2016 and relied on interviews with families living around Bandipur, veterinarians, animal husbandry experts and Karnataka forest department staff. Secondary data including livestock and human census data was also accounted.

The study found the declining level of tolerance towards carnivores among agricultural communities near Bandipur had little to do with lifestyle or cultural changes in communities as claimed.

Foundational changes taking place in rural livestock economy are creating new sites of encounters between humans and carnivores, often very close to human habitation. This, in turn, is reducing the communities’ tolerance towards carnivores.

“Our research findings demonstrate the need to go beyond popular and often misleading narratives to identify and understand the various and complex social, political and economic linkages that often underlie human-carnivore interactions,” Krithi said.

A more nuanced understanding of sources of human-wildlife conflict — in this case, the economic decision making of rural agrarian families — is indispensable for designing effective solutions that address conflicts between humans and carnivores in co-shared and contested landscapes. The study thus offers a valuable approach to employ the deeper inquiry required and contributes to the growing interdisciplinary field of human-wildlife interactions, she added.

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