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Sahyadri ENews: LXXII
Human-Wildlife Conflict and Forest Fragmentation Linkages in Southern Western Ghats, India


T V Ramachandra,   Aditi Tomar,   Bharath Setturu   Cite
ENVIS[RP], Environmental Information System, Energy and Wetlands Research Group,
Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science - 560012      Phone: 080 22933099/22933503

1. Introduction
Forest is a complex ecosystem that mainly consists of trees supporting various forms. The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) has defined forest as land with tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10% and an area of more than 0.5 hectares. Forests are further subdivided into plantations and natural forests. Natural forests are forests composed mainly of indigenous trees not deliberately planted. Monoculture plantations are being established in the process of afforestation or reforestation. Forest is a natural resource that provides food, shelter, and, most importantly, oxygen to survive. Forests can be broadly classified into type taiga (consisting of pines, spruce, etc.), the mixed temperate forests (with both coniferous and deciduous trees), the temperate forests, the sub-tropical forests, the tropical forests, and the equatorial rainforests. The six major forest groups in India are moist tropical, dry tropical, montane sub-tropical, montane temperate, subalpine, and alpine. These are subdivided into 16 major types of forests. Forest harbors a large amount of biodiversity. According to studies, it is observed that tropical forests have a higher number of species per unit area as compared to temperate forests or boreal forests (Foody et al.,1997; Adams et al., 2009) , making them species-rich forests. But, the human interventions in the forested areas due to immense pressure on biological resources is creating a tremendous threat to biodiversity, ecology, hydrological processes, and carbon sequestration potential (Gordon et al., 2011; Halkos and Tzeremes, 2010; Kersebaum et al., 2015; Ramachandra et al., 2020; Bharath and Ramachandra, 2021).
Fragmentation is basically a landscape-level process in which a large forest area is divided into smaller, isolated patches. Human activities such as agriculture or plantation have the most severe cause of fragmentation and biodiversity loss in any area. Forest fragmentation in tropical rainforests is considered one of the greatest threats to global biodiversity. These forests are the most species-rich terrestrial ecosystems providing numerous ecosystem services and moderating climate (Whitmore and Sayer 1992; Armenteras et al., 2003; Ramachandra et al., 2021). Habitat fragmentation leads to the isolation of many species into small populations, making them prone to hunting and inbreeding (Soulé, 1987; Hadad et al., 2015) . These forest fragments that are like patches spread over the landscape are under pressure due to increased human disturbances such as logging, removal of fuelwood and grazing, and other activities. These patches are embedded in a matrix of human habitats of various kinds, such as plantations, open spaces, and agricultural fields. This sometimes increases human interaction with the species and, in turn, increases human-animal conflicts. Figure 1depicts the effects of forest fragmentation on a landscape. One of the major losses occurs in forest cover, which changes forest structure, changing the microclimate around the edge, low core habitat, and facilities the establishment of invasive species towards the interior of the forests.

Figure 1. Effects of Forest Fragmentation

Human-Wildlife Conflict
As the natural habitat shrinks and the human population increases, giving way to higher conflicts with animal and human interactions over a space for food and water. For the search for food and shelter, animals, mainly elephants, tiger, leopard, etc., affects the livestock and plantations, causing people to lose their livestock, crop, or sometimes life (Manral et al., 2016) . The subsequent aggressive actions by humans result in further escalation of the conflicts, including retaliatory killings of wildlife (Distefano, 2005; Woodroffe et al., 2005; Michalski et al., 2006) . Bengal tiger Panthera tigris, common leopard Panthera pardus fusca, Asiatic one-horned rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis, and Asiatic elephant Elephas maximus are top-ranked conflict animals.
Increasing fragmentation in any landscape deprives the animals of their natural resources like food, water, and forest cover, forcing wild animals to move to other localities, searching for food, fodder, and water. The fragmented forest creates patches which in turn disrupts the connectivity of two forests. Ramachandra et al. (2016) has assessed the forest fragmentation in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, India, from 1979 to 2013 showed a reduction in evergreen to semi-evergreen forest cover from 57.31 % (1979) to 32.08 % (2013) through land use analysis. The result of fragmentation analysis showed a decline in the interior forest from 64.42 % (1979) to 25.62 % (2013), mainly due to increased anthropogenic activities like deforestation and conversion of forest land into cropland. Human-wildlife conflicts reflect the interactions between humans and wildlife where negative consequences, whether perceived or actual, exist for one or both parties (Decker et al., 2000) . Human-elephant conflict is reported throughout the 13 countries where the Asian elephant is distributed (Kemf and Santiapillai, 2000) . In one of the studies, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary (Karnataka state, India), average losses due to elephant raids amount to 11% of the monetary value of the grain production of the affected households (Madhusudan, 2003) .
Bal et al. (2011)
reported that the conflicts have increased in the Virajpet division, Kodagu district, leading to crop-raiding and worsening the conflicts in the district. One of the studies on elephants in Tanzania, in comparison, uses young teak plantations (6 years old) to a greater extent than older stands (Bonnington et al., 2009) . Krithi et al., (2013) observed the pattern of human-wildlife conflicts and compensation in the Western Ghats protected areas and reported that the crop loss was attributed to 19 species, with top-ranked species across all reserves being a wild pig (57%), elephant (37%) and chital (8%). Compensation for crop losses varied across reserves ranging from INR Rs 9934 in Dandeli-Anshi to INR Rs 38,692 in Bhadra. Similarly, livestock losses varied across reserves ranging from INR Rs 2190 in Bandipur to INR Rs 12,352 in Nagarahole. It was observed that species involved in for compensation were incidents related to elephants. Comparing the result with another study by Rohini et al. (2016) , the elephants accounted for 58.8% of the conflict cases. Both the study stated that the compensation was an ineffective program mostly because of the prolonged and challenging administrative procedures and the mistrust of authenticity of the program. Therefore, proper channels and mitigation for the human-wildlife conflict are necessary to improve the current situation observed in the Western Ghats. Direct contact with wildlife occurs in both urban and rural areas. Still, it is generally more common inside and around protected areas, where wildlife population density is higher, and animals often stray into adjacent cultivated fields or grazing areas. Species most exposed to the conflict are also more prone to extinction (Ogada et al., 2003) because of injury and death caused by humans. These can be either accidental, such as road traffic and railway accidents, capture in snares set for other species or from falling into farm wells, or intentional, caused by retaliatory shooting, poison, or capture.
Wildlife Corridors
A Wildlife corridor is a two-dimensional landscape element that connects two or more wildlife habitat patches that were previously connected but isolated due to forest fragmentation and anthropogenic activities (Gadgil et al., 2011) . Wildlife corridor connects isolated habitat patches, which allow seasonal movement of fauna species to migrate, breed, and feed (Srivastav and Tyagi et al., 2016) . The function of the wildlife corridor is to enable the physical movement of wildlife species which is decisive for their long-term survival. However, due to increasing demand for land and natural resources, wildlife corridors and habitats are threatened. All forms of anthropogenic activities and interactions with the natural environment lead to changes in the ecosystem, species composition, and climate change and therefore ultimately have associated impacts on changes in the ecosystem, species composition, and climate change and, therefore, ultimately impact wild animals.
The current issue of Sahyadri E-news presents :
⦁ land use in each district of southern Western Ghats through remote sensing data for 2018.
⦁ Assess the extent of forest fragmentation through fragmentation index quantification in the southern Western Ghats.
⦁ Identifies locations of human-animal conflicts in the southern Western Ghats and deliberates causal factors of human-animal conflicts.
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