Biplab Hazra snapped a stunning photo in the Bankura district of West Bengal, India, of a mob attacking a cow and calf Indian elephant with flaming tar balls. Nauseatingly, it illustrates how, when animals have diminished value to society and come into conflict with humans, wildlife loses. And in such a loss, humans also lose.
The human-wildlife conflict problem is huge at numerous places around the world – most often when there is no regulated hunting in the area to assure sustained use of the resource. So it is in India, now that hunting is no longer permitted.
The Hindustan Times reports that human-wildlife conflicts killed 29 people in West Bengal’s Bankura district during 2016, and that forest officials even began issuing SMS alerts in March 2017 on the movement of elephants to try and prevent those conflicts.
Call of the Wild Sanctuary Asia reports that, in a study by Dr. Krithi Karanth and research associate, Sahila Kudalkar, of 5,196 families living by wildlife reserves across India, “crops were lost by 71 percent of households, livestock by 17 percent, and human injury and death were reported by 3 percent of households.”
Think about that 71 percent number and consider that these are rural communities where residents can’t exactly run down to their local supermarket and restock. What does the world look like if, overnight, 71 percent of a community lost its ability to feed itself for a season?
Instead, Wildlife Damage Management (WDM) is the process of using various tools and techniques to alleviate human-wildlife conflicts.
“Through WDM, individual animals causing damage to crops, depredating livestock, serving as disease vectors or threatening human health and safety may be appropriately managed. Harassment, exclusion (changes in husbandry practices), trapping and hunting are some of the most prescribed methods for reducing conflicts with wildlife,” reports First For Wildlife.
A community-based wildlife conflict strategy whereby animal control mitigates damage can ultimately eliminate retaliatory killing and restore value of animals to communities. Regulated hunting provides food for rural communities, money for community projects, jobs and ensures a sustainable population of wildlife.
Biplab Hazra’s photo, titled “Hell is Here,” won him Sanctuary Nature Foundation’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 award. The Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards is India’s longest-running and most prestigious initiative of its kind. Such powerful, evocative images have the power to draw out supportive human responses that, when combined with the facts about hunting and sustainable use, can help those who are undecided about hunting recognize its benefits.