Poshan Outlook

Human death and injury are the dominant cost of human-wildlife conflict in India

Scientists from the University of British Columbia (Canada), the Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS India), highlight the significant human cost in the valuation of the damage incurred from conflict with wildlife in India.

Poshan Outlook
February 24, 2021
Human death and injury are the dominant cost of human-wildlife conflict in India

Scientists from the University of British Columbia (Canada), the Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS India), highlight the significant human cost in the valuation of the damage incurred from conflict with wildlife in India. CWS led the field surveys of 5,196 households living in a 10 km buffer around 11 protected areas in four states of India (Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra) between 2011-2014. The survey sought to estimate the human costs of conflict—damages to crop, livestock, and costs of human injury and death for the 15 most common wildlife species. Scientists also uncovered how these losses varied across different species and landscapes in the country.
 
“We utilize data from a large survey conducted by CWS across several regions of India to present a comprehensive assessment of damage from the main wild species of India. Our study is also unique in explicitly valuing, incorporating, and comparing the costs of human casualties to standard measures of losses in human property. Our results are statistically robust and differentiate damage by individual species and regions. Human casualties contribute overwhelmingly to overall damages from wildlife interactions. This is despite the use of a relatively low valuation of human life from the literature. The dominance of the costs of human casualties rationalizes the innate fear and respect towards large charismatic species displayed by those living with wildlife in India,” says lead author Dr. Sumeet Gulati.

The results of the study further imply that focusing on the cost of human casualties while estimating losses from wildlife conflict is necessary. Scientists also found that, in India, families are not being adequately compensated for the damage incurred from interactions with wildlife. The compensation for human death ranges from ₹76,400 in Haryana, to ₹8,73,995 in Maharashtra. In India, the average compensation paid for Human death is ₹191,437, and the average compensation paid for human injury is ₹6185.

According to another research by CWS in 2018, for human death, the highest losses were reported in Assam (61 people), Karnataka (59 people) and Tamil Nadu (53), whereas no loss of life was reported in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Haryana, and Tripura for 2012–2013. The national average ex-gratia payment per human death incident was ₹2,37,470. In 2012–2013, the highest number of injuries were reported from Madhya Pradesh (2906), Maharashtra (463), Himachal Pradesh (455) and Chhattisgarh (407). The average ex-gratia payment per human injury incident was ₹7560.

“Our research is one of the largest scientific assessments of human-wildlife conflict globally. We find that farmers experiencing a negative interaction with an elephant over the last year incur damages on average that are 600 and 900 times those incurred by farmers with negative interactions with the next most costly herbivore: the pig and the nilgai. Similarly, farmers experiencing a negative interaction with a tiger over the last year incur damage that is on average three times that inflicted by a leopard, and 100 times by a wolf. A particularly significant finding is that though a species is associated with a rare occurrence of human fatalities, the expected cost of death from a negative interaction is much higher than the expected cost of frequently occurring crop/livestock damage. Conservation managers have to prioritise human casualties and improve assistance provided to people” says Dr. Krithi Karanth, co-author of the study.

The study reiterates that conservation management efforts and policies should focus more on reducing human death and injuries from interactions with wildlife.