Human/wildlife conflict with more wildlife damages on the fields and livestock is on the rise in Annapurna Conservation Area due to increasing populations of both wildlife and humans in need of the land
9. January 2015
Reasons for the making of a protected area
A Nepalese conservation project has been initiated in 1985 in the area surrounding the Annapurna mountain tops, the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP). It has the approximate size of Sealand. The need for conservation measures has been perceived due to local population growth and growth in tourism, as the area had become the most popular trekking destination in Nepal. Both types of growth have caused increased pressure on the environment by e.g. deforestation. The purpose of the project has been to maintain the biodiversity both in flora and fauna, while at the same time provide for a sustainable development for the local residents.
Reasons for hunting wildlife
In north of Annapurna Conservation Area hunting has been forbidden or uncommon, but in the south of the area locals has been keen hunters, and some considered hunting as being an important part of life. Hunting wildlife has traditionally been done for a variety of reasons: Musk deer for cash income, Impeyan pheasant for the feathers to make arrows, Chukor partridge for the good meat, monkeys for protecting the farmers’ fields and snow leopard to protect livestock.
Now hunting has been prohibited inside Annapurna Conservation Area unless there is a written license from the head of the conservation area management committees. Without the possibility of hunting crop raiding and livestock killing wildlife the farmers will experience losses. These losses have been attempted to estimate through 5 projects in different parts of the area from 2003-2004, in which some of the authors have pointed in the direction of using monetary compensation for the farmers.
When hunting stops, the wildlife populations rise. Since also the human population has grown inside the protected area, there is an increased need for land from both wildlife and humans. Therefore a solution to the conflict becomes more urgent.
The total annual damages from both crop raiding and livestock depredation in the entire Annapurna Conservation Area has been very roughly estimated to the monetary value of 100 million Nepalese Rupees. This figure is higher than the annual budget has been in the five-year period 1997-2002 for Annapurna Conservation Area Project, which has been roughly 70 million Nepalese Rupees. This mean than the project in the current status will be unable to pay full compensation for damages on their own. This argument becomes even more obvious through the fact that the budget is already full of activities, which it is unlikely that they will all be cancelled for being able to use only this one measure.
Solutions used in protected areas around the world
Some measures that have been used in protected areas around the world are:
- up- or downgrading the protected areas like either declaring it a world heritage site or allowing some traditional practices inside the protected area e.g. collecting firewood inside Royal Chitwan National Park
- other possible measures by managements of the protected areas like electric fencing or better law enforcement
- traditional measures like fencing and use of dogs, which both are much used options
- new measures can be use of capsaicin spray or keeping livestock inside secure building which both have been used in USA
- the park staff or government staff can help scaring the wildlife from the fields and corrals
- finally more research can help provide needed information to address the human/wildlife conflict
- financial or educational help from authorities or international donors for e.g. development actives as road construction or construction of schools and libraries, which have been used in Africa
- initiating new income generating activities like trophy hunting which has been used in Pakistan or fruit tree plantations as has been used in China
- local rights to extract some of the natural resources within the protected area like e.g. the elephant grass cutting program in Royal Chitwan National Park or bee-keeping in Uganda
- democratization process of collaborative management maybe with revenue sharing between local and governmental authorities
- either some monetary compensation for those affected as in USA – also monetary compensation if somebody lost their life to a wild animal as in Kenya
- or a full compensation similarly to the one in Norway on wolf predation on sheep
The possibilities of monetary compensation
Possibilities of monetary compensation can be subdivided in 4: full compensation, partly compensation, unit-wise to target areas with most threats and finally one for the entire community, which could be almost any of the abovementioned solutions e.g. no. 7, which already has been used to create an education facility in Kalopani with training for waiter, cook and more skills in the tourist trade.
The full compensation solution is expected to reduce hostility from human against the predators and pest animals to least possible, but there is probably not enough money in the projects fund for this choice.
Partly compensation recognizes that risks in any kind of trade are inevitable, therefore also farmers must be prepared for some incidents that will affect their livelihood. But even a small loss might be very important and even life-threatening for the poorest farmers.
Unit-wise compensation can be used to target differences in threats e.g. areas with higher losses or most endangered animals or risk of retaliatory killings. There might be more problems with snow leopard in the high lying area and less problem with common leopard in the lower lying southern parts. However, there is a risk of a feeling of unjust in the south, if they cannot get any part of compensations for damages.
A community might be the best guards, since they know each other well and will spot any violation of rules. But if it is as alternative compensation the link to conservation is weaker, since a tourist trade training facility may not be used by the farmers suffering damages. Therefore the farmers will still want to kill the predators and pest animals.
The testing in a smaller area
In 2010 the solution of monetary compensation has been tested up in the Manang area only. It is normal procedure in the Annapurna Conservation Area Project always to test a managing solution before attempting to use it for the full area. It seems wise to learn from the problems that may arise from a new management measure like maybe exaggerated loss claims or loss claim staff’s inability to find proper proof for claims or too heavy administration cost or continued hostility against dangerous animals and more problems that might arise.
According to the most recent annual report 2013 monetary compensation has now been used in several of the management zones for both livestock depredation and losses in the maize fields. Furthermore a research of wildlife damages in Sikles has been carried out, which showed a lot of damages.
Suggestions for further readings:
Bajracharya, S. B., Furley, P. A., & A. C. Newton. 2004. Impacts of community-based conservation on local communities in the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal. King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation. Kathmandu. Biodiversity and Conservation (2006) 15. 2765–2786.
Ghai, R. 2013. Crop raiding: a conservation catastrophe. [online]. The Jane Goodall Institute, Canada. Toronto. [2. January 2015]. Accessible on internet: <ULR: http://janegoodall.ca/get-involved/crop-raiding-a-conservation-catastrophe-2/>
Jensen, J. H. 2007. Monetary Compensation – a possible solution to the human/wildlife conflict in ACAP? Faculty of Life-sciences, Copenhagen University.
Sharma, S. 2014. Bear attacks ‘on rise’ in Annapurna area. [online]. Ekantipur. Nepal. Kathmandu. [2. January 2015]. Accessible on internet: <ULR:http://www.ekantipur.com/2014/12/25/national/bear-attacks-on-rise-in-annapurna-area/399484.html>
Thapa, G. J. & N. Khanal (eds.) 2013. Annual report 2013. National Trust for Nature Conservation, Nepal. Kathmandu. pp. 5-16. Accessible on internet: <ULR: http://www.ntnc.org.np/publication/ntnc-annual-report-2013>