Shrinking habitat ups bear-man conflict

Shrinking habitat ups bear-man conflict

Gudekote bear sanctuary

A five-year study on sloth bears in four locations across Karnataka has recorded over 300 instances of conflict between bears and humans.

The study, which was conducted by Wildlife SOS in association with the Forest Department, was described by Dr Arun Sha, director of Research and Veterinary Operations at Wildlife SOS, has having given insights into the behavior of sloth bears. Sloth bears constitute nearly 60% of the bear population in the country. The study offers damning revelations about increased human-animal conflicts in the four study areas, Ramanagaram, Arsikere, Koppal and Ballari.

"In Ramanagaram, which has some of the highest sloth bear numbers, urbanisation has been high, reducing wilderness areas, resulting in increased human-bear conflict," Dr Sha said.

According to figures in the report, 21 bear attack cases were reported in Ramanagaram from 2014-2018, based on a questionnaire. Sixty-two cases are reported from Ballari and Koppal districts. The study does not cover Tumakuru in detail, which nevertheless, reported 45 attacks. Arsikere reported 39. In all, the number of incidents in the study areas amounts to 356, said Dr Sha.

Sanjai Mohan, principal chief conservator of forests (Wildlife), disputed this high figure, saying that an average of 40 attacks a year across various districts was a more reasonable figure.

In Ballari, environmentalist Samad Kottur, said that bear-human interventions are common, especially in areas removed from the two bear sanctuaries in the district — at Gudikote and Daroji — where animals, which are nocturnal by nature, often traverse five to six kilometres foraging, sometimes running into humans — with fatal consequences.

"One day in 2017, there were 11 attacks on humans, which caused one death. In the immediate vicinity of the sanctuaries, there are less attacks on humans and more raiding of crops. Farmers are compensated by the government, so they tolerate the incidents," Kottur said.

Dr Sha revealed that Wildlife SOS has asked the Forest Department for permission to extend the study for another three years, which, he said, would allow them to survey the rest of Karnataka.

"A long-term objective is to hopefully prompt the government to build more sanctuaries," he added.

Mohan, however, said there are no plans to create further sanctuaries considering that Gudikote was created in 2016. "No other state has allocated 25% of its territory to sanctuaries — it is only Karnataka," he said.

When asked what should be done to limit increased human development, Mohan said, "All families should have only one child."

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