Human-wildlife conflict — Are animals in conflict with us?

Human-wildlife conflict has been a growing concern globally especially in the last few decades. We are coming across more wild animals in towns and even cities which can create nightmarish situations if predators like leopards enter crowded residential areas. What exactly is human wildlife conflict?

Earth is 70% water and 30% land all of which is not habitable. Our global population has crossed 7 billion and continues to increase unabated. We have stretched the planet to its limits as we continue to exhaust its natural resources to the point of depletion. Nature as we see it is not the creation of a divine being. It is a closed loop system that learns and evolves continuously. Complex life forms have existed in nature for at least a billion years. To maintain nature’s ecosystem it evolved different ways of controlling the population of all living beings in it, mainly through diseases and predator-prey relationships. This is from where “Survival of the fittest” has originated. To sustain nature’s balance it is imperative that only the healthiest and the strongest in every species procreate and pass on their genes to the next generation. This is why genetic diseases are not seen in nature. The rest of the population has to die from diseases, injuries and at the hands of predators.

Our evolution and existence on the planet has been a matter of great debate which has given rise to the Creation Theory which opposes the Evolution Theory. The scientific world hasn’t been able to explain the sudden development of our advanced and sophisticated intelligence and communication skills using Evolution Theory. Moreover nature will never give any being in its ecosystem the intelligence and knowledge to cut down trees and destroy nature to build its own houses. With our intelligence and knowledge we have built societies and towns and cities thereby escaping from nature’s food chain and by creating medicines we have developed the ability to treat many of the diseases that afflict us.

Not being part of nature’s food chain and treating diseases has led to the explosive expansion of our population. We are left with no choice other than encroach increasingly into nature to accommodate ourselves and to keep meeting our perpetually expanding needs. “There is enough for everybody’s needs but not for anyone’s greed” are wise and enduring words from Gandhi about nature which we have conveniently ignored. As we keep consuming more of the habitat areas of animals, we are bringing ourselves deeper into the so called conflict with the animal world.

The problem I have and the reason I am writing this blog is the word conflict. We can use the word conflict to highlight an ongoing issue between two or more parties having similar levels of intelligence. Animals do not have our level of intelligence then why do we say animals are in conflict with us? Because of our lack of understanding about nature in general and animals in particular.

My mom feeds a variety of birds every day that includes crows, mynas, cuckoos, treepies, bulbuls, babblers and coucals. What is interesting about watching them eat is, even when they feed on the rice and chapathi (Indian bread) pieces, they are on the lookout for worms and insects. As their habitat area keeps shrinking they cannot stay adamant on eating one type of food. Animals reproduce only when there is availability of food and safe place to rest. Scarcity of food forces them to stop reproducing and focus on their own survival. So to avoid scarcity of food, they are being forced to expand their menu of food items.

What we are seeing is animals being forced to adapt to us or face the prospect of extinction. Indian Paradise Flycatchers are usually seen in wooded areas where there is lot of green cover. My ancestral house used to be covered with trees and when I showed photos of the Flycatcher to my mom recently, she immediately said they used to come to our house. With the development of the town, they have kept moving away into wherever the wooded areas are and have gone far away from the town area. While crows, bulbuls, mynas and many other birds and animals adapt to us, the ones that don’t are going to find it difficult to survive with steady loss of habitat.

We need to understand very clearly that animals are not eating our crops and livestock and wandering into our settlement areas with the intention of creating conflict with us. Animals have only two needs, eat food and procreate so that their species can survive. What is driving them towards us is pure survival instincts. When we are faced with the same situation animals are facing now we too will show our survival instincts. Instead of understanding their plight and showing empathy towards them, we are treating them as threats to us and killing them.

Where do we go from here and what is the way forward?

We cannot destroy nature and survive on the planet. We need to reduce our population drastically and there is no way to do it. A global war will destroy us and nature equally. The only plausible solution is to learn as much as we can about our planet quickly, use our knowledge of technology to find another planet that resembles Earth, make it habitable (terraforming) and escape from here. Earth has survived 5 mass extinction events in the past. According to scientists and researchers, 99.9% of all lifeforms that ever existed on Earth have become extinct. Life forms become extinct and new ones take their place. We do not need to conserve nature to protect trees and animals. We needed to protect nature for our own survival but we did not understand this. The damage we have done to ensuring our survival on Earth is far greater than our current understanding and there is no going back from where we are now. It is either escape or extinction.

P.S. A friend read this blog and told me that we will destroy the planet we go to as well. Most probably we won’t. When we get something without any effort we usually end up destroying it because we never understand its value. When we take the effort to build a planet for our own survival we will treasure it.

Business Consultant, Startup mentor, writer, nature conservationist, wildlife photographer