Human-wildlife conflict threat to conservation efforts, say experts

Kathmandu, December 15

Human-wildlife conflict and wildlife crime are among the largest threats to conservation efforts and the livelihoods of rural communities in the Kangchenjunga Landscape, said government officials and experts at a regional programme held in Siliguri, India this week.

Recognising the transboundary nature of these challenges, governments, research institutions, and civil society representatives of Bhutan, India, and Nepal, who share this landscape, came together to outline a strategic regional roadmap for cooperation in consonance with each nation’s priority for conservation and enhancing livelihoods of its citizens.

Speaking at the ‘’Reconciling Human-Wildlife Interface in the Kangchenjunga Landscape: Regional Dialogue for Action’’ event, Soumitra Dasgupta, Inspector General of Forests (Wildlife) in West Bengal, said, “Kangchenjunga Landscape is an extremely important global biodiversity hotspots and we share this landscape between three countries. Wildlife does not understand political borders and for communities in the forefront of human-wildlife conflict, it is a stressful situation.”

Dasgupta represented the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India at the programme organised by West Bengal Forest Directorate and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.

According to a press release issued by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development today, the incidence of human-wildlife conflict is rising for several reasons.

Various mitigation measures to address human-wildlife conflicts have been implemented in the Landscape, including crop/livestock guarding, physical and

electric fencing, sound and/or light alarm systems, and livestock insurance schemes. However, in some

areas, retaliatory killing of wildlife species has also been reported,

it said.

Gopal Prakash Bhattarai from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, who led the official delegation from Nepal, said, “This is the right time for the three countries to work closely together. There is an urgent need to collectively monitor, study and share information in a timely manner about movement of wildlife in the landscape. There is also a need to share best practices and replicate them appropriately.”

Further echoing the need for urgency, Ravikant Sinha, chief wildlife warden, Government of West Bengal, said, “It is imperative that we all keep the movement paths of animals open and unhindered at all times. While protection of communities and property needs to be addressed, it should also allow for safe passage to animals.”

The Kangchenjunga Landscape is home to charismatic wildlife species such as the snow leopard, red panda, pangolin, takin, Himalayan black bear, and musk deer – all of which are globally threatened. Many of these species are threatened by poaching for the illegal trade of their body parts including pelt/scales, bile, or musk. Illegal trade of pangolin scales, tiger pelt, rhino horns, butterflies and rhino beetles have been reported from eastern Nepal bordering India. Greater cooperation across borders can also help address some factors influencing poaching and illegal trade in the border areas of the landscape – a lucrative market, porous borders and insufficient patrolling.

“Human-wildlife conflict is without doubt a major challenge for all three countries, but illegal trade in wildlife is also an important issue which needs to be addressed collectively by our three countries,” said TashiTobgyel from the Department of Forests and Park Services, and the leader of the Bhutanese delegation.

Eklabya Sharma, deputy director general of ICIMOD, said, “There are numerous challenges in the landscape which is transboundary in nature; human-wildlife conflict, illegal wildlife trade, inter-species spread of disease, human induced forest fires, to name a few. The commitment of Bhutan, India and Nepal to work together on these shared transboundary issues could serve as a great example for other countries and regions of the world to do the same.”