Of Elephants and Explosives...

A perspective on human wildlife conflict

A lot of people messaged me about an incident involving an elephant that was killed with an explosive baited pineapple (or jackfruit) recently in Kerala...

What people don't seem to be aware of is that this is an extremely regular occurrence, done to kill or maim deer and wild boar, especially in places with high human-animal conflict and crop depredation. We've had cases of wild boar dying of starvation and infections after surviving baited explosive traps all over the country. And this happens a lot more in areas where certain conflict causing species are declared as vermin.

When you brand any wild species as vermin, (in turn empowering citizens to think of "innovative" ways to deal with problematic species), you have other species die in the crossfire. For example, owls are on the decline most likely due to rodenticide poisoning or being caught in rat traps that have been set out to kill them verminous pests (and yes, owls being killed by poison and getting stuck in traps is a form of conflict)

You also end up with human casualties in the long run as animals living in areas where they are constantly under stress will lash out in times of conflict, which they wouldn't do in areas where conservation policies are monitored and managed properly (see elephant conflict belts and elephant behaviour studies). Looking at the way the country seems to be dealing with environmental policy, I wouldn't be surprised if this sort of situation occurred more regularly.

However, from a social point of view, you cannot expect people who are down to living on subsistence farming to stand by and allow their crops to be destroyed regularly with delayed govt. compensation mechanisms - which though very well-conceived and managed, tend to take a little longer to disburse than affected people are ready to be patient for. In Bandipur, for example, where I worked for several years, certain parts of the reserve had lower recorded incidences of big cat poisoning as a reaction to cattle depredation, parts which were covered by a certain NGO that paid compensation for lost cattle, sheep and goats to big cats almost immediately. The rest of the peripheral villages received their compensation only through the government with a large delay that sometimes lasted over a year.

I don't believe any policy should be made without carefully taking all these aspects into consideration....... Which is why you require Environmental Assessment Systems and Policies that try to collate all possible points of view, including social issues that may result as a consequence. Policies which are under significant threat of being dissolved in this country in the very near future due to the current political environment. 

Shantanu Kalambi

Shantanu Kalambi

Jeevoka member since Jun 2020