If a wild elephant tramples your rice fields, the government will provide compensation for the loss. Though it sounds simple, there are several inconsistencies in compensation awarded for human-wildlife conflict — ranging from crop loss to human death — across the country, finds a study published on September 2 in
Biological Conservation
, an international journal on conservation science.

Five-year study

Scientists at Bengaluru’s Centre for Wildlife Studies, who analysed cases of compensation for crop raiding, livestock loss and human injury and death reported to the government between 2010 to 2015, find that wildlife that caused losses in 29 States included elephants that raid crop fields, tigers and leopards that preyed on cows and goats, and other species ranging from crocodiles to monkeys that cause injury and property damage. Twenty-two States compensated people for crop loss.

While a majority of the States awarded compensation for loss of livestock, human injury and death, only 18 (62%) did so for property damage. The complete data for 18 States in 2012-2013 alone reveals that people reported a total of 78,656 cases, for which payments totalled to about Rs. 38 crore. Yet, even these numbers are an underestimate of the extent of conflict: many people do not report their losses, some States lack compensation policies, and the team did not have access to the five-year compensation details of 11 other States.

When the team compared the compensation patterns in detail, they found that despite a significant mandate to address human-wildlife conflict, there exist numerous inconsistencies in eligibility, application, assessment, implementation and payment procedures across States.

For instance, although the majority of claims countrywide were related to crop loss, seven States — including Gujarat and Rajasthan — still do not provide crop compensation.

The ramifications of losses in arid States where farmers rely on just a single crop for survival would be high. Such discrepancies in eligibility and procedure, by promoting selective tolerance and protection of wildlife, could be detrimental to conservation efforts,” said the study’s co-author Anubhav Vanamamalai.

‘Standardise policies’

“Policies must be standardised across State lines in a manner equitable to both citizens and wildlife,” he added.

“Empowering people to cope with their losses is needed if we are to see global conservation icons such as elephants and tigers thrive amidst people,” said lead author Krithi K. Karanth.

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