Any human-wildlife conflict affects both the sides often in tragic ways, like the death of four tigers in Mhadei, Goa, and the reported arrest of the locals who poisoned the animals after their complaints were not attended to in a way it should have been. Pramod Sawant, the chief minister of Goa, reportedly said that, "we will demarcate and fence the borders of the wildlife sanctuaries" in order to end 80 per cent of the problem. Although the intentions are good, this isn't a solution. Tigers do not understand boundaries made for administrative purposes. What happens when a tiger goes outside and kills cattle
India is a unique country with respect to wildlife conservation. Despite a billion people we still have most of our large wildlife species. Compared to relatively lower human density countries in south-east Asia, India today has the largest population of the tiger, Asian elephant, leopard, sloth bear, gaur and many others These animals cannot be restricted to inside a few hundred kilometres of protected areas. Had that been done, they would have all died due to inbreeding and lack of connectivity. Tigers need large spaces because they are large animals. Because we cannot create large spaces without humans in India, wildlife does not have a choice but to also use human-use landscapes. This rationale is as old as tigers and humans are in India. People have accepted this, and incorporated it in our culture. All our deities have animals associated with them it shows the inclusion of these animals in our mind space. The Velip community in Goa worship the tigers and this practice is done even today, although it was started at a time when tigers were still present all over Goa. When my parents had taken me to the Verne temple in 1968, on the top near a spring there was a tiger. My frightened family ran down and when they told the temple priests about the animal, the response was acknowledgment Yes, he comes to drink water.
People have always shared space with wildlife in India. No doubt, the repercussions are sometimes very serious like it happened in Mhadei. However, the solutions lie elsewhere, not in fencing the land which neither people nor tigers will adhere to. A tiger can get over the fence just as much as a human can. The best way forward is to ensure that the locals view an engagement with tigers as a path towards development This is something the administration can definitely do as has been shown in many other tiger reserves, including in Maharashtra. The health minister, Vishwajit Rane, in whose constituency the tiger carcasses were found, called the creation of the tiger reserve as a measure against development. But that is because we have not seen the money that the tigers can bring in. Unlike activities such as mining, tigers are a renewable resource. They are always going to be there, and so will the rivers and the forests, giving the local people income and development as long as there are tigers.
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