The conflict between man and wildlife has been an unending journey since time immemorial.
40% of the country’s total land area has been reserved for conservation and 60% is mandated by the Constitution to remain under forest coverage for all times. More than 70% of the population depends directly on crop and livestock production for their livelihood. Hence, the human-wildlife conflict is considered as an issue to be addressed.
“Human-wildlife conflict is mainly due to expanding of human population into the resources available in search of food and shelter which creates intense competition between wildlife and man,” section head of Human Wildlife Conflict Management Section (HWCMS) Sonam Wangdi said.
According to the Bhutan National Human Wildlife Conflict Strategy (BNHWCS), the predators for domesticated animals are tigers, leopard, snow leopards, wild dogs and bears. Wildlife that raid the crops are sambar, barking deer, musk deer, takin, swamp deer, hog deer, chital, gaur, water buffalo, goral, serow, wild boar and pygmy hog, elephant, primates like western Assamese macaque, Indian rhesus macaque , Arunachal macaque ,langurs, capped langur, and common or gray langurand lori.
Wangdi said wild pigs and monkeys are the most prominent and intensity of crop destruction is high because of the large numbers while elephants rule the south.
“During the harvest season crop damage are more, but loss of livestock happens any time of the year,” Wangdi said.
“The data on the human-wildlife conflict is uncertain, it is not predictable, “he added. The current data is for the year 2002 till 2011 and includes data for claiming compensation only. It doesn’t represent the total number of livestock that has been killed by the predators.
Records with the Wild Conservation Division (WCD) shows the highest number of livestock killed was recorded at 788 in 2004 and lowest at four in 2002.
Crop damage reports states Trongsa has the highest damage areas of paddy which accounts to 117.79 acres and the lowest, recorded at Gasa with only one acre.
The BNHWCS has designed strategies for mitigation of crop damage by wild animals through fencing, alternative crop cultivation, and use of audio-visual deterrents.
To save domestic animals and crops from predators, Wangdi said the solar electric fences are most effective and the WCD plans to design different kinds in accordance with the species.
Wangdi said human-wildlife conflict endowment fund has been introduced in eight gewogs; Damchu and Jena in Wangdue Phodrang, Nubi and Nabji-Korphu in Trongsa, Dhur in Bumthang, Chimong in Pemagatshel, Langchenphu in Samdrup Jongkhar and Sibsoo in Samtse to supplement the farmers for their loss.
He assumes that one day this conflict would decline through various mitigation measures and research.