A workshop on interactions between humans and wildlife was conducted in Annamar Cottages in Kotagiri. The workshop was aimed at highlighting some problems and concerns in this region concerning human interactions with wildlife.
The workshop was well attended by members of the Media, staff from the Forest Department, farmers, and other individuals working on wildlife issues. Keeping in format with other workshops in this series, the workshop started with a presentation made by Abhishek (Keystone Foundation) on the different perspectives and views towards interactions, which was followed by an open discussion.
The presentation focussed on the different ways in which conflict could be understood, and how each individual was an inevitable part of these interactions between humans and wildlife. The discussion which followed was mainly used by members of the media to engage with the forest department on its activities and the manner in which they approached the subject of interactions, more specifically conflict.
Some of the main points that were highlighted were the lack of open communication of the Forest Department’s initiatives and activities in engaging with this pressing issue, as well as the lack of clarity when it came to explaining compensation mechanisms. The media opined that the mechanism of compensation was still unknown to a lot of farmers in the region, and the rather lengthy and expensive procedure involved in sanctioning of the compensation funds, came too late or was insufficient. They also probed the Departments attitude and understanding of the health of the forest and steps that were being taken to increase its health as well as provide better habitats for wildlife to exist in.
A farmer opined, given the increasing negative interactions between humans and wildlife and the lack of clarity in the role the forest department played in their region, more farmers were willing to give up agriculture (as the returns were not guaranteed) and look for alternate professions. He also observed, the decrease in available natural resources and the increase in contention for them between humans and wildlife, especially with regard to water in areas where agriculture was intensively practiced. He also mentioned the lack of awareness of the mitigation measures that were available for them to use, as well the lack of clarity regarding what measures were considered illegal. The recent incident with bear attacks, had further added to the fears of farmers in his region concerning wildlife. He was also of the opinion that there was quite a bit of mis-information going around regarding animals and their behaviour, and it would help to a great extent to interact more with the forest department regarding these issues.
In this context, a local snake rescuer and the forest department highlighted how they had been spreading awareness about snakes locally, and the different steps they have taken to reduce conflict in these situations.