Designing a comprehensive human-wildlife conflict management strategy in select districts/landscapes of Sikkim (funded by United Nations Development Programme -UNDP)
In 2018, UNDP in collaboration with MoEFCC assigned ATREE the task of exploring the current status and dynamics of Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) in Sikkim. This sub-project was part of the SECURE Himalaya program which addresses Snow Leopard habitats in three Indian Himalayan states and one Union Territory. The state is potentially significant to the species since it forms a connecting bridge between large areas of high-altitude, protected habitat in eastern Nepal and western Bhutan (MoFSC 2017). In
Why is HWC research important?
The issue of human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is critical because the rural economy is changing rapidly in the Himalaya. Many farm families are abandoning agriculture partly or entirely and seeking alternative work, and HWC is most often mentioned as the principal reason for these decisions. The hilly regions do not have the headline-grabbing HWC problems seen in other parts of West Bengal and the "Plain states", where human injuries and fatalities are caused by elephants or tigers. Nevertheless, in the Sikkim-Himalaya, the chronic loss of crops and livestock – sometimes reaching as much as 80% of a family’s harvest value – can make it nearly impossible for a family to maintain a dignified livelihood. If we want to maintain healthy rural livelihoods into the future, it will be necessary to address this problem. Because it reduces productivity, HWC may also be a significant threat to Sikkim state’s transition toward “organic state” status. The Sikkim Human Development Report of 2014 concluded that “Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is on the rise in Sikkim” but that “Sikkim lacks a comprehensive policy on managing HWC.”
Trends in HWC?
Aims of the project
First, understanding perceptions of stakeholders across horizontal and vertical scales is essential in developing efficient policy design and implementation. Second, there is still a dearth of primary field data on the socio-cultural and economic contexts of conservation that should inform HWC policies. Finally, there are very few assessments of monetary compensation schemes in the country.
Our project will use a multidisciplinary approach to understand perceptions across different stakeholder groups, generate primary field data and assess various mitigation approaches to develop an inclusive and comprehensive conflict management system for the fringe areas of Kangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve. The broad objectives of the study are:
i. Assess the nature and extent of human-wildlife conflict in the Sikkim.
ii. Explore possible mitigation approaches.
iii. Design a comprehensive and integrative conflict management strategy
Community perceptions of the relative amounts of damage caused in each month by the 2-3 most important HWC species. Groups were asked to rank 1) species in terms of the amount of damage caused, and 2) calendar months in terms of the average proportion of damage per year. People report strong seasonal variation in severity of damage. Note bears attack livestock during the winter months, not during the maize season.
Perception of locals on species causing maximum damage to crops and livestock in fringe villages of Kangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim Himalaya
Perception of people on species causing maximum damage to crops and livestock in Lachen and Lachung Valleys.
THE FIELD TEAM
Himalayan black bear enjoying the forage bonanza at a village waste dump
Lachungpa farmer with ox reportedly killed by a tiger