Revival of Asiatic lions is one of the rarest success stories, found anywhere on the planet. It is a known fact that to save the rare lion the conservation efforts had to also protect their habitats in and around the core protected area—Gir National Park & Sanctuary in Gujarat.
The efforts succeeded in increasing the lion population along with its wild preys as well. Lion, spotted deer, blue bull and wild boar are prolific breeders. So, as time passed, herbivores started moving and residing outside the protected area. Some of the lions and leopards, living in periphery, too followed and some of them even found favourable areas to reside in and around the highly populated villages. Most of the people in the region accept the presence of lions as a matter of pride. The lion habitat area increased from some 10,500 sq km to 22,000 sq km in the last five years (Nature & Wildlife Conservation in India) as per the lion censuses of 2010 and 2015.
In the meantime, crop damages by wild ungulates have also been multiplying. The concerned authorities have been unsuccessfully trying to solve the problem. As crops are the basic survival source to farmers and their families, protection of their crops at any cost is inevitable. Yet, it is reported that farmers themselves do not kill the intruders. They often urge the forest department to relocate the wild animals into the wild. However, this is easily said than done.
When the number of wild animals present in revenue areas increase manifold the chances of man-animal conflicts also rises. There are also avoidable factors to curb man-animal conflicts. Often, people do not observe basic safety precautions leading to undesirable conflicts with animals. Sleeping outside, lack of adequate fences and lights, letting children outside after sunset, improper disposal of non-vegetarian food (the smell of such food attracts animals near human habitations), not maintaining a safe distance of 100 meters from the animal prone area or cordoning/harassing lions particularly during mating period can definitely cause such conflicts. In the cases of conflicts, animals cannot speak more often than not become victims.
Conservation cannot be achieved only through sympathy or compassion towards animals. A well worked out approach is imperative. In the light of the move for culling, there is urgency especially for the authorities to augment traditional protection practices and come up with better wildlife management policies and avoid massive casualty of animals. Culling should be the last policy when every other alternative has failed. And clearly, India’s wildlife management is yet to test every viable method.
Culling should not be done as a thumb rule in the first place. It has can endanger a whole species and even wipe out. And if culling has to be implemented at any cost, it must come under the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
More than 200 blue bulls otherwise called nilgai have already been killed in Bihar in the backdrop of the authorisation of culling. If the move is further sanctioned all across the country, the toll on animals will be insurmountable let alone countable.
Culling can definitely be postposed or replaced by other alternatives—wire fences with controlled electric pulses, high fencings, using chemical to keep away herbivores, providing shelter and water to animals away from human habitations and also observing basic safety precautions can check damages caused by animals.