Updated: January 31, 2021 2:38:24 am
Data released by the Uttarakhand Forest Department has revealed that 56 per cent of the human deaths in man-animal conflicts in 2020 occurred in the last four months of the year — after the free movement of people resumed following the easing of curbs due to the pandemic-induced lockdown.
As per the records of the Forest Department, 62 people died and 286 were injured in man-animal conflicts in 2020. The maximum number of casualties – 30 deaths and 85 injuries – were by leopard attacks, followed by snake bites (15 deaths and 53 injuries), elephant attacks (11 deaths and 8 injuries) and bear attacks (86 injuries).
Wildlife experts say that during the lockdown, wild animals like leopards, tigers and elephants expanded their territory as human movement ceased. After the lockdown ended and as restrictions were eased, people entered these newly expanded territories and came in contact with wildlife, resulting in man-animal conflicts.
An analysis of the data reveals that 35 human casualties (almost 56 per cent) and 146 injuries (51 per cent) were recorded between September and December.
According to a forest official, after the unlock, people started venturing into the forest more and more to collect wood and fodder, especially preparation for winter. This increased the possibility of conflict with wild animals.
Shrinking territory for animals
Uttarakhand has around 38,000 sq. km of forests—almost 71 per cent of its geographical area—and a significant human population resides in villages located in and around forest areas, both in the hills and plains. Forest officials say that as more and more people venture into wild animals’ territories, and an increase in the population of animals has resulted in a rise in man-animal conflicts and an increase in the number of casualties of both humans and animals.
“Typically, young leopards and tigers like to travel long distances and start exploring new areas… When human activities stop, wild animals expand their territories and start using these areas,” Wildlife Institute of India (WII) dean Dr Y V Jhala said.
Another takeaway from the Forest Department data was that despite lockdown and restrictions for large parts of the year, 2020 actually recorded a higher number of human casualties as a result of man-animal conflicts when compared to the figures of 2019 (58 deaths) and 2018 (52 deaths).
Head of Forest Force, Rajiv Bhartari said, “Department is planning to train members of voluntary village protection force in the villages for their capacity building and enhance their knowledge so physical barriers can be maintained properly.”
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