Choki Wangmo 

A human-wildlife conflict (HWC) policy and wildlife Act could address the country’s ever-growing human-wildlife conflict, according to the findings of the Assessment of Conservation Priorities for Bhutan (ACPB) project.

The lead author of the project Ugyen Tshewang (PhD) said that currently, the policy directions for HWC management have critical gaps in the country due to a lack of HWC policy. “Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan is the only legal tooth that supports conservation and protection of wildlife species. But it does not address conflict management issues.”

“HWC policy should empower necessary provisions for conflict resolutions in the context of minimising conflict between wildlife and humans,” he said.

The HWC policy, he said, should include specific elements such as wildlife-friendly practices, alternative livelihood opportunities and revenue-sharing options through tourism; economic responses such as finance, endowment funds, subsidised microcredits and loans, sustainable compensation or insurance schemes.

According to the project findings, the most important policy provisions should encourage wildlife-friendly agricultural policies, compensation and insurance schemes, requisite government budget allocations, response teams, preventive and mitigation measures, and alternative livelihoods, among others.

However, the crop insurance scheme introduced by the agriculture ministry is defunct.

The situational analysis of HWC in Jomotshangka Wildlife Sanctuary found that there was a lack of uniformity in the implementation of conflict elements, which means that livelihood diversification, alternative livelihoods, and insurance and compensation schemes are small, or are currently not effective. “Implementation of HWC actions on the ground is relatively weak.”

Past reports show that in recent years, HWC has increased drastically. Studies have shown that it is expected to further increase in the future.

Records show that livestock depredation in central Bhutan by wild carnivores, including leopard, tiger, Himalayan Black Bear, and dhole account for an average annual financial loss of 17 percent of farmers’ total per-capita cash income, with leopard and tiger causing the maximum loss.

The major causes of HWC are habitat disturbances through human settlement and expansion of farming activities in the vicinity of the protected areas and landscapes, or the combined effects of such causes.

ACPB, launched earlier this month provides an overview of holistic and multiple assessments and recommendations on the “state of the environment” commitments and legal mandates of Bhutan.