In man-animal conflict there is no winner, ultimately

Dhaka,  Mon,  25 September 2017
Published : 13 Aug 2017, 21:11:56
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OPINION

In man-animal conflict there is no winner, ultimately

Although the higher casualty figure on the human side makes grim reading, it does not signal animal's victory over man. Rather, it is the other way round. Elephants, tigers, lions and other animals have the number one enemy in man. It is because of this, different species of wild animals, including tigers and lions are threatened with extinction, writes Neil Ray
If man-animal conflict cannot be avoided in vast stretches of Africa's savannas, it is only natural that the encounter would be more pronounced in land-scarce countries like Bangladesh. And so it has been proved by a study titled 'Status of Asian Elephants in Bangladesh' conducted jointly by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Department of Forest here. The study identifies that obstruction to elephants' free movement, scarcity of food and development works in their habitats are responsible for the rising conflict between humans and the declining number of mammoths. 

The study has in effect pointed to the indiscriminate encroachment upon the habitat of wild elephants. Today the number of these highly intelligent animals -next only to humans -has dwindled to 457, of which 93 are migratory and 98 are captive. There are only 268 resident wild elephants. Maybe, elephants still stand a better chance of survival than the Royal Bengal Tiger, the existence and number of which have become even more precarious. The tigers are confined to the Sunderbans alone but elephants live in several forests in the hilly districts in the country's east. 

This is however no guarantee that the pachyderm will not become extinct like bears and other wild animals once found in the forests of Bangladesh. Loss of habitat to humans and the consequent shortage of food have already compelled animals to invade human settlements. Competition for scarce land has prompted people to push for settlements, agricultural lands, roads and highways, brick kilns and markets. The Lawachhara reserve forest is a glaring example of fragmentation of animal habitats on account of construction of a road and rail track through it. Deaths of rare animals on the road and rail track bisecting the forest are at times reported. 

So far as man and elephant conflict is concerned, it is evident that the same is becoming more intense than ever before. Casualties on both sides are on the rise as a result. Since 2003, elephants have killed as many as 227 people and 63 of those animals got killed at the hands of humans. The casualty figures for both rose last year when 16 people and four elephants made it to the list. Additionally 20 people were also left injured in 2016. The sense of antagonism has intensified, courtesy of increasing human encroachment.

With both the trans-boundary and internal corridors depleting, elephants have no choice but to go for foraging in uncharted territories. Elephants are accustomed to following same routes for ages but when those routes are closed or somehow disrupted for their movements, they are likely to get violent. So, they attack human settlements, crop fields and thus the equilibrium in the co-existence of man and animal breaks down. 

Although the higher casualty figure on the human side makes grim reading, it does not signal animal's victory over man. Rather, it is the other way round. Ultimately, though, there is no winner. Elephants, tigers, lions and other animals have the number one enemy in man. It is because of this, different species of wild animals, including tigers and lions are threatened with extinction. And this is despite elaborate and extensive conservation programmes run by dedicated men and women. Asian elephants are fortunate enough not to face similar threat as yet but in Bangladesh they really do. The conservation programme here should be made more comprehensive where local people must be involved for successfully implementing it.
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