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Human losses in man vs wildlife battle alarm Ministry

                                                                                                       The Pioneer, New Delhi, 3rd June, 2013

Perturbed by increasing man-animal conflicts across the country, the Environment Ministry has begun an assessment of human deaths and injuries caused due to animal attacks. Initial data received from 12 States shows that 653 persons have been killed and 17,062 injured in the past 10 years.

This amounts to nearly 65 human deaths in a year and 1,700 injured, which is merely the tip of the iceberg, according to officials. The number will magnify manifold when further data pours in from the other States that are still working out the details, they added.

The maximum number of human casualties has been caused by wild elephants, followed by tigers and bears. According to sources in the Ministry, a meeting of the States is likely to be convened soon. Even a Parliamentary Consultative Committee meeting will be called, considering the seriousness of the issue.

These efforts come in the wake of recent initiatives made by Kishore Rithe, standing committee member of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), in his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, demanding a special package for Chandrapur district - that has lost 84 people in four years in tiger/leopard attacks.

In his letter, he had called for the intervention of PMO he had called for a special package for human-wildlife conflict prone landscape of Vidarbha to implement the “alternate livelihood programme” for Minor Forest Produce and livestock dependent families living in “buffer villages” and in “wildlife corridors”.

Based on the directives from the PMO the Ministry has called for statistics of human deaths and injuries in the various states across the country.  Amongst the 12 states include Nagaland, Andhra Pradesh, Mizoram, Goa, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya and Uttar Pradesh.

Wild elephants accounted for the maximum number of human causalities of 114, which was followed by tigers with 95 and bears killing 55 persons. So far the bears have injured the largest number of 445 and leopards have injured 419.

However figures from major affected states as Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, Jharkhand, West-Bengal, Karnataka etc are yet to arrive, pointed out Ministry sources.

While Jammu and Kashmir has one of the highest incidents of man bear conflicts, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra report of man  leopard/ tiger conflicts. States as Odisha, West-Bengal, Karnataka and Jharkhand on the other hand are prone to man elephant conflicts. Apart from the human casualties, the data received so fat indicates 22,667 livestock have been killed by wild animals, with tigers leading with 12,286, followed by elephants with 7,691 cases.

Welcoming the step, Kishore Rithe pointed out, that it is not enough to just give compensation packages. The government has to plan long term strategies in formulating livelihood packages for the affected victims. When live stocks are lifted away or killed by the wild animals, it is a financial blow to the affected family. Hence, it is time that the core of the issue be addressed instead of simply dealing it superficially, he pointed out.