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WildSeve reduces the cost of living with wildlife for over 6000 families
WCS staff implemented WildSeve, a system to record and track human-wildlife conflicts, which has permitted families living around the Bandipura and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves to file compensation claims with the government more easily, enabled government to improve its performance in responding to compensation claims, and led to more effective preventative measures to reduce the incidence of human wildlife conflicts. So far, 1,373 families have received $62,230 in compensation payments and claims of 4,700 affected families are being tracked. Using WildSeve, data we have also identified 948 incidents of repeat crop raiding and livestock predation, and used this information to support construction of 12 livestock protection sheds in village locations where repeat attacks had taken place, and advised farmers on avoiding cultivation of specific crops that attract wildlife.
In India, protected areas cover less than 5% of the nation, but continue to provide quality habitat for high densities of tigers, elephants, leopards and many other wildlife species. Millions of people live within a few miles of these reserves, sharing space and natural resources with wildlife. Effective conservation efforts by WCS and our national partners over the last 30 years have caused the populations of tigers, leopards and elephants to rebound, particularly in the Western Ghats. One consequence is that animals increasingly venture outside of the reserves, where they come into contact with people. Between 2000 and 2010, over 45,000 claims for wildlife-related damages were filed with the government. Though national compensation policies do exist, research by Dr. Krithi Karanth, in 2013, found that fewer than 30% of households that had incurred losses from wildlife reported filing for and receiving payments. Government is understaffed and under-resourced, and thus unable to assist in a timely manner. Human-wildlife conflict has a significant impact on local livelihoods, and the absence of fair and timely compensation is eroding people’s tolerance for wildlife and the reserves. Helping the government to find a cost-efficient way to fulfil its obligation to compensate affected families is, therefore, an essential first step in opening a broader dialog about the role of the reserves, and wildlife more generally, in regional development. In July 2015, with support from Oracle Foundation and National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative, the WildSeve system was launched in villages near Bandipura and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves. Working with government agencies, WildSeve developed a standardized set of application forms for each of the five types of human-wildlife incidents (crop raiding, livestock predation, property damage, human injury, and human death). With the help of WCS, people who have suffered wildlife-related damages complete and sign the forms and file them with the appropriate government agency. By linking this support to a toll free number with a web portal, WildSeve provides a simple and reliable response and case tracking system. When a wildlife conflict is reported by phone, our field teams respond within 24 hours, and assist the family in filing a claim. The web portal then allows the government agency and WCS to track each case until compensation is paid, and provides previously lacking performance measures showing how quickly the average case is resolved. These case histories also provide valuable information on the spatial distribution of wildlife-conflicts, the species involved, and whether farming and livestock raising practices could be modified to avoid future incidents. Using this new information and working closely with local farmers allowed us to advise that switching from cultivation of horse gram (a bean commonly eaten in southern India) would help reduce crop raiding by elephants. Similarly, focusing on communities that were repeatedly subject to livestock losses from tigers and leopard led us to help construct 12 livestock protection sheds and plan to build more where they are most needed. Combining more efficient compensation for human-wildlife conflicts, and successful measures to reduce the incidence of conflicts provide key building blocks for a strategic approach to managing how people and wildlife interact. Over time, we hope that the combination of fewer conflicts with wildlife, and more satisfactory interaction with government when incidents occur, will provide a starting point for broader discussions about the role of wildlife in regional development.
The WildSeve team periodically revisits filed cases with the Forest Department to assess their progress through the compensation process. The average time to file a claim with the help of WildSeve is 8 days and average time to receive payment is 227 days. To ensure that claims are paid in full, the WildSeve team accompanies Forest Department staff as the deliver payments. Recently some government offices have built on WildSeve by transitioning to electronic payments making the compensation more efficient and transparent.
To ensure that local families do not pay a financial cost for living with wildlife, the WCS WildSeve team helps them to file claims with the Forest Department and secure compensation for losses. Since 2015 WildSeve has responded to every call to the toll free wildlife-conflict number. Shankarappa a farmer from Naganapura, a village close to Bandipur, called 36 times in the first year to report crop damage by elephants and pigs. WildSeve helped him file every claim and he has received compensation for 13 claims so far. Commitment and timely response by WildSeve has built considerable good will within local communities. Today, families will often insist that the Wild Seve team be present when Forest Department staff assess the damage caused by wildlife. We have filed over 6,100 claims and only a tiny fraction (<0.15%) have been rejected. So far 1,373 cases have been compensated and $62,230 has been paid to local families. The average compensation has been $14 for human injury, $32 for property damage, $33 for crop loss, $77 for livestock predation and $7407 for human death. More than 75% of losses are crop damage.
A farmer receiving compensation payment from the government in Alathur village/
Krithi Karanth ©WCS
Livestock shed constructed by WCS in Bankahalli village
Krithi Karanth ©WCS
Property damage by elephants in Hadanur village
Krithi Karanth ©WCS
Locations of conflict incidents responded to by the WCS Wild Seve team around Nagarahole and Bandipura National Parks in India (2017)