The correlation between leaving land fallow and increasing human-wildlife conflict has been established in the Jomotsangkha Wildlife Sanctuary (JWS).

A survey in the sanctuary revealed that in 2018 alone, 53 percent of people from seven gewogs within the JWS left their agricultural land fallow due to conflict with wildlife. Wild pig topped the list of most common pests with 552 incidences, followed by monkey and bear.

The survey report found about 386.96 acres of dry land and 44.48 acres of wetland were left fallow. The survey covered 291 households within the park’s jurisdiction. About 55 percent of respondents reported increased crop depredation trend compared with past years.

The increase in crop damage, according to people, was because of the increased forest cover near settlements and wildlife population.

According to the report that was launched during the World Rangers’ Day on July 31, human-wildlife conflict was reported from all over the country. In the south, elephant depredate crops while wild pig is considered nuisance to the farmers in the north and east of Bhutan.

With 79.38 percent of residents depending on agriculture, more than 20 different types of crops including fruit trees were lost to wild animals every year. Maize, paddy, millet, and buckwheat were the common crops the wildlife raided.

Although area under paddy cultivation was more than maize fields, people reported more damage to maize. The study found nine species of common crop-raiding animals excluding various species of squirrels and rats. The animal species include elephant, barking deer, sambar, wild pig, Himalayan black bear, porcupine, monkey, and hare. “Most of the animals raided the crops during night except for monkeys,” the report stated.

The study also found about 72 percent who incurred crop damage did not report human-wildlife conflict to any responsible agencies. People said there was no clear system of reporting damage, while others said it was time- consuming.

“Only five gewogs reported damage caused by elephants. Samrang and Langchenpu gewogs reported the highest incidence of house damage by elephants.”

The 222 households in the JWS rear seven types of animals. Cattle was the main source of income and also the maximum animal killed by predators. Lauri and Langchenphu gewogs reported the highest incidences. Maximum livestock loss was common to tiger in the south of the sanctuary and leopard and wild dog in other places. The report attributed the practice of free grazing in the forest to the conflict.

JWS covers 348 sq. km from Martsala, Phuntshothang, Pemathang and Samrang under Samdrupcholing dungkhag and Langchenphu to Serthig and Lauri in Jomotsangkha dungkhag.

Due to its strategic location on the Indo-Bhutan border, the sanctuary provides critical habitat for several threatened species. JWS recorded 318 tree species, 34 mammal species, 257 bird species, 35 herpetofauna and 163 species of butterflies.

Choki Wangmo