The conflict of ages

Human-wildlife conflict is ever on a climb and growing settlements and development works have only entirely worked to antagonize the situation.

The results of the unbalanced equation have brought about undesirable consequences for both parties.

It’s a case of who is more important; livestock for the farmers or the wild life for the ecosystem. In the end the prey falls and the predators grow lesser in numbers, ‘mysteriously’.

Facts and figures with the Wildlife Conservation Division (WCD) have archived all these instances from wildlife actions.

The official report focuses mainly on four wildlife species as per the compensation entitlements. The division has fielded records from the years as early as 2002 on depredation of livestock like Bull, Calf, Cow, Donkey, Foal, Goat, Horse, Lamb, Mule, Sheep and Yak which fell prey to Bear, Leopards, Snow leopards and Tigers.

Such predators are mostly dependent on the wild preys and require large home ranges which has becoming increasingly difficult. This can be attributed to factors such as increasing human populations, development activities which have encroached habitats.

Predators are compelled to wander into the unknown territory and an easy domestic prey lures them toward confrontation with humans. These factors lead to increasing incidents whereby such predators come into conflicts with the people.

 

Tigers depredating livestock

The Royal Bengal Tigers, only tiger species known to thrive in Bhutan usually live in high forests feeding on wild carnivores. In an ideal condition, Tigers hunt medium-sized animals, such as rabbits, reindeer, buffalos, deer, wild boars and other mammals. They are known to shy away from humans and human settlements at all times.

It is without choice that they hunt down animals from the doorsteps. Tigers reportedly have killed a total of 625 domestic animals. This includes 301 bulls, 14 calves, 190 Cows, seven Donkeys, 41 foals and seven goats. Tigers have, over a period of 10 years depredated 70 horses, 14 mules, four sheep and 28 yaks.

Bulls were highly preyed-upon (301) while the domestic animals least preyed upon were foal and sheep (4 as of now). One reason for such incidents is also the tradition of farmers who let cattle graze freely wherein they stray far away and fall prey to the wild.

On an average, tigers have killed 56 domestic animals in a year.

The highest kills rose as high as 78 bulls in 2005. But tigers have killed at least one domestic animal every year. On an average, in the last last ten years, tigers killed 30 bulls, 19 cows, seven horses, three yaks, and one each of a calf, a foal, a mule and a sheep.

 

Snow Leopard

Their elusive nature gives them a huge edge over the usually less agile domestic animals. Although they live high-up in the mountains, feeding on mountain goats, blue sheep and other mammals who share habitat with them, they are also known to prowl into the human territory.

Snow Leopards as of now have killed only one bull, cow, donkey, two calves, eight horses, 10 mule and 47 Yaks. The yaks feature as highest in number to be killed. because they share habitats.

Killing a total of 70 domestic animals over the period of ten years, on an average, snow leopards have killed only one animal. The maximum killed remains to be the yak (almost 15 yaks in 2011). The number of yaks killed hinges around eight in 2004, nine in 2005, five in 2006 and 10 already killed till the middle of 2012.

 

Common Leopard

Leopards have mainly targeted horses with kills totaling to 358.

The common leopard has not spared other preys either. 75 bulls, 182 calves, six donkeys, 34 foals, seven goats, two lambs, 93 mule, 135 sheep and 46 Yaks have fallen victim to them.

It has killed as many as 172 horses, 145 cows, 49 bulls, 59 calves, three donkeys, 20 foals, two lambs, 43 mules, 81 sheep and 44 yaks.

 

Bear

The Bear has mauled 23 bulls, 11 calves, 30 cows, three foals, 11 donkeys, 55 sheep and 38 yaks. The highest killed include sheep, closely followed by yaks, cows and bulls.

 

The Prey-count

From among the four predators, common leopards killed the most (1242). The Tiger treads closely with 625, while the Bear has killed up to 171 and the Snow Leopard made the least kill with 70.

A total of 2108 domestic animals were killed in a span of 10 years by these predators. The kill averages up to 210 animals in a year by these predators.

Tiger Focal Officer with WCD, Lhendup Tharchen said this is only the officially reported figures. He said many cases go unreported. He said it is also due to the tolerance of the people and partly due to the negligence of the compensation scheme.

“Killings occur in many places but only those who are aware of the compensation schemes reports,” Lhendup Tharchen said. “The data may not be very conclusive.”

A compensation of Nu 7,001,150 has been disbursed to affected families by the WCD from donor funds as well as from the Government’s side.

Nevertheless, compensations which amount to a little more than Nu 0.8mn remains to be paid.

“We could not do the full compensations due to lack of funds,” said Lhendup Tharchen assuring that fund exploring is still being pursued. “We have received Nu 0.5mn this year from RGoB.”

 

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