Since the world and most of the people in it understand money better than anything else, I thought it’s a good idea to place human-wildlife conflicts (HWC) in this perspective. While the indirect or “hidden” costs of HWC are significant, I will deal with that in a later post.
The monetary losses in human wildlife conflict is calculated in terms of the losses in human activities (loss of agricultural land, crops, property and life), while the natural losses are somewhat ambiguous. You cannot put a price on how much a deer costs, can you? Nevertheless, records do exist of the number of animals we have lost due to these conflicts.
The major human losses due to HWC is in the form of agricultural yield loses, damage of property, livestock predation and damage or loss of human life. All or many of these are quantified in many countries all over the world.
In the US, major losses were in the form of agriculture, livestock and property. It is estimated that around $4.5 billion is lost through agricultural damage. In terms of property damage, something unique to the US and Canada is animal-vehicle collisions on highways. In the US, vehicle-deer collisions have cost then $1.6 billion per year. I don’t have the figures for moose-vehicle collisions, but you can expect losses of over $1 billion. In the states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, wild attacks has lead to loss of 728 cattle animals between 1987 and 2001. Similar figures are expected in other cattle-raising states such as Texas.
France sees major damages to crops from wild boar and deer, amounting to €23 million every year. In eastern European countries, compensation for damage by large predators have gone over €800,000 between 2000 and 2003. The numbers could well be higher today.
Australia suffers major crop damage due to kangaroos running (or should I say jumping) rampant on farms. They also damage livestock indirectly, by competing with sheep for grazing lands. As a result, the agricultural industry faces losses of $25 million per year, while the wool industry is estimated at $115 million per year.
India faces maximum losses via agricultural damage, as it obtains upto 60% of its GDP from agriculture. In India, HWC is present throughout the country. Losses are in all forms; agriculture, property, livestock and life. The conflicts are acute in communities which live on the edges of protected areas. For example, Dachigam National Park’s surrounding areas face huge problems because of black bear attacks. Similarly, NE India is infamous for crop-raiding elephants. Between 1980 and 2003, 1150 humans and 370 elephants died due to HWC in here. In general, agricultural losses amount to 30-40% of the total yield in many of the fringe communities (individually), apart from livestock damage.
The losses may not be huge, but they are significant. They are especially significant to the communities that are directly affected by them. Many of the communities that live in the fringes of protected areas do accept that wildlife is a part of nature, but destruction of their livelihood sometimes causes them to lose control. It doesn’t help that government compensation of these losses are not timely.
- Monica V. Ogra; Human–wildlife conflict and gender in protected area borderlands:
A case study of costs, perceptions, and vulnerabilities from Uttarakhand, India; Geoforum (39) 2008.
- Human Wildlife Conflict-Challenges and Management, P.R. Sinha
- ADRIAN TREVES, ROBERT B. WALLACE, LISA NAUGHTON-TREVES, AND ANDREA MORALES; Co-Managing Human–Wildlife Conflicts: A Review; Human Dimensions of Wildlife 2006.
Note: The figures in red are extrapolations from data of previous years and/or calculated estimates by the author.