A herd of elephants after they foraged on crops in a farm close to the Indo-Nepal border. Photo by Avijan Saha.

Scope to augment transboundary landscape-based conservation efforts

In 2016, the West Bengal government urged the Central government to take up the human-elephant conflict issue along the Indo-Nepal border with the Nepal government.

Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden Pradeep Vyas pointed out that the issue is an economic one for local communities as they are the ones experiencing life and property loss and crop damage. He said: “There has to be a ground-level dialogue, movement of elephants and damages should be discussed. International NGOs can organise consultations with those working on the issue at the ground-level and can also help in providing relief to the people in affected areas so that local communities can tolerate the challenge.”

“There could be compensation issues. If those losses are compensated adequately, then the local communities will be more approachable for interventions. Only words will not solve the problem,” Vyas asserted.

ICIMOD’s Nakul Chettri batted for augmenting the landscape approach to conservation. India’s National Wildlife Action Plan (2017-2031) also emphasises the landscape approach to conservation. “Human-wildlife conflict in general and human-elephant conflict in the Kangchenjunga Landscape and elsewhere is a major issue. It is now a global challenge, and there are no silver bullet remedies available,” said Chettri.

Elephant herds gather at the Mechi river before attempting to cross the Indo-Nepal border. Photo by Avijan Saha.
Elephant herds gather at the Mechi river before attempting to cross the Indo-Nepal border. Photo by Avijan Saha.

As part of its Regional Cooperation Framework developed for Kangchenjunga Landscape, ICIMOD organised a formal dialogue between Bhutan, India, and Nepal in December 2018. The three country’s high-level representatives recommended a task force to jointly look at the issue and come up with a practical long term action plan to deal with both conflict and transboundary corridor and movement.

“The outcome of the meeting in December 2018 was a positive move, and since then, many things are happening. Good research results are coming from Wildlife Institute of India, ICIMOD is preparing draft status report, good practices compendium and hotspot map considering both country and border area hotspots. Also, we are now working hard to agree in terms of references for the task force and nomination from respective countries to take the recommendations forward,” said Chettri.

“Many species such as tiger, rhino, snow leopard, which have wider home ranges, use more than one state or even country as their habitat if they are connected or are being used historically. Therefore, a landscape approach is inevitable, and it also has success stories such as with tigers in Terai Arc Landscape. However, it needs both stakeholders’ willingness of the respective governments and constant efforts at every level – local, national, and regional, including support from global communities. In north Bengal, there is a positive development happening, and India’s government is also in support of this recommended approach – as indicated in the December meeting,” added Chettri.

 

Banner image: A few elephants, including calves, split from the herd after an unsuccessful attempt to cross the barrier at the Indo-Nepal border. Photo by Avijan Saha.

Article published by sahana