By Jennie Miller, John Linnell, Vidya Athreya and Subharanjan Sen
This article is an outcome of discussions at the Central Indian Landscape Symposium (CILS) in December 2016 during the session on Coexistence Between People and Wildlife.
Wildlife managers and other conservation practitioners represent the wildlife they manage or research. When wildlife damages people’s property or affects the lives of family and friends, these authorities are often required to step beyond their areas of expertise and training to address the needs of people. Managing people well—especially in sensitive situations when they have faced a serious personal loss to wildlife—is critical to conserving wildlife.
But how exactly do you explain to a stranger that her husband has been mauled by a sloth bear, or tell a farmer that a tiger has devoured his cow on which he relies for his sustenance? Local people’s interactions with the administration—often considered a representation of wildlife itself—start with the way in which people are treated as they receive the news of such losses. These moments can be traumatic and emotionally charged, especially when it is a human life that has been lost. The households wrestling with these losses are then often expected to carry out long protracted procedures to claim financial compensation payments, a process which again defines their view of the larger administrative and governmental system, as well as shapes their future willingness to engage with wildlife authorities and tolerate the proximity of wildlife.
In such contexts, a conservation practitioner’s “people skills” play a critical, yet currently underappreciated, role. In that fraught moment, the individual who represents the authority is seen as a custodian of the wildlife species causing the loss (livestock, crop or human). They also take on another, greater role, that of a human being reacting to the loss of another human, one that requires empathy, humility, and respect. Some people possess these skills naturally and make for very effective wildlife managers with little need for further training. For others, these skills need to be taught and fostered by institutional culture. However, training in dealing with people in trauma and conflict has not been an important part of the curriculum for conservation biologists, practitioners, and wildlife managers. In this article, we build on our collective experiences as conservation professionals to discuss strategies related to public relations that could better equip researchers, forest administrations, and other conservation practitioners in caring for people as well as wildlife.
Read the full article in the Economic and Political Weekly (free on ResearchGate).
by Kevin Krajick
Featuring research by Amrita Neelakantan, Columbia University
It is the black before dawn at the gate to the Kanha Tiger Reserve, in the highlands of central India. The still air carries a dank, penetrating chill. But it is hardly quiet. A buzzing line of tourists is forming at the ticket booth, peddlers are pouring steaming cups of tea. Groups of green-uniformed rangers chat at the entrance. Across the street, dozens of drivers are forming up a military-type vehicle convoy, ready for the visitors to board for the daily sunrise invasion of drive-through safaris.
It was Kanha’s lushly forested hills and ravines that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s famous story collection The Jungle Book, and it is a must-do tourist stop. Unlike much of rapidly developing India, it abounds in wildlife; it is home not only to Bengal tigers, but leopards, sloth bears, unique deer species and other rare and endangered creatures. The 360-square-mile park used to be home also to at least 1,500 extended families, but not anymore. The government started moving them out in the 1970s, and nudged out the last stragglers in 2015. This, theoretically, has been good for the fauna and flora. Whether it has been good for the people is a separate question.
Read more in the original article, posted on State of the Planet, Columbia University's Earth Institute blog.
-- The Last Wilderness Foundation
The Last Wilderness Foundation runs a unique and innovative project called the Village Awareness programme, in association with the Kanha Tiger Reserve Forest Department. The programme aims to help pivotal stakeholders of conservation - the communities and children living in the buffer areas of the park - to understand the importance of the forest and imperativeness of conserving it. The programme ultimately hopes to develop a connection of appreciation between these stakeholders and nature.
The second leg of the programme was just completed in the buffer zone of the tiger reserve. This component focussed on-grounds problems in the target villages, and specifically helped deepen the connection between children and nature. The programme was initiated from 26th- 31st May and covered 5 villages located in close proximity of the park.
Read more about the programme, including the detailed report, on their website.
Species and Landscapes Programme, WWF India
In order to minimize the impact of unsustainable agriculture practices in the Satpuda-Pench corridor, a critical stretch of forest connecting the Satpuda and Pench Tiger Reserves in Central India, 2000 farmers from 22 villages located along the Satpuda-Pench corridor have enrolled in an organic cotton cultivation project implemented by WWF-India and C&A Foundation. Intensive farming practices which entail higher costs have resulted in significantly reduced incomes from agriculture and in turn led to soil degradation, reduced water availability and quality in the villages in this ecologically fragile area.
The organic cotton project has trained the farmers in organic cotton cultivation by setting up demonstration plots and providing training for pest management, preparation of organic manure and bioreagents, nutrient management and use of non-GMO cotton seeds. The cotton produced as a result of this project will be procured by a Denmark based garment company called ‘Neutral’ at a premium. By 2018, the aim is to get 6000 famers in the corridor villages to go organic, earning them a premium for the produce and significantly reducing the impact of unsustainable agricultural practices all along the Satpuda-Pench corridor.
Species and Landscapes Programme, WWF India
For communities living in Dindori of Madhya Pradesh and Mungeli of Chhattisgarh, the forests are an integral part of their life. Mahua (Madhuca longifolia), Indian gooseberry or Amla (Phyllanthus emblica), Honey, Chiraunji (Buchanania lanzan), Harra (Terminalia chebula) and Tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon) are collected by the communities for household consumption as well as sale in local markets to augment household incomes. As part of its project Madhuban in the Kanha-Achanakmar Corridor of Satpura Maikal Landscape in Central India, WWF-India works closely with communities in 13 villages to monitor the collection of resources, develop sustainable harvesting practices and establish profitable market linkages for the produce.
Honey collectors from the villagers have been trained and provided with equipment for sustainable honey harvesting. Through this initiative, honey collectors collected 210 kg of honey which was sold at the rate of Rs 130-150 per kg at Kanan Pindari in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. The collectors are members of the Maikal Sahad Sangrahan Samuh, which has been supported in getting an organic certification for the honey collected by them. Another committee has been set up to monitor record of non-timber forest product (NTFP) collection from the forests, the idea being to eventually get all members of the community involved in NTFP collection to do so in a sustainable manner.
Project Spotlight highlights our members' work in Central India.
|Network for Conserving Central India||