Wild Tiger Health Project
Created by Dr John C M Lewis

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Human-tiger conflict: Mitigation measures

Mitigation measures aim to reduce the impact of human-tiger conflict when it does occur. The most common approach is to offer some form of financial pay-out in the event of conflict. This may be administered either through a compensation scheme run by the state, or an insurance scheme which requires members to pay a subscription. Such measures have an important role to play in easing tensions between farmers and conservationists and increasing community acceptance.

Many of the people rearing livestock within tiger territory are subsistence farmers. For these families, the loss of a single animal can have a big impact. Receiving some form of financial compensation for the loss of such an animal can ease the resulting hardship and relieve tensions. However, to be effective, schemes must be perceived to be fair and accessible, and payments must be received promptly.

Compensation schemes: These schemes aim to ease the economic burden of HTC by reimbursing certain associated costs. The most common of these schemes compensate for injury or loss of human life, although some may also provide cover for livestock losses. In the case of human injury, compensation may be paid to cover the cost of medical expenses and lost earnings. In the case of loss of human life, compensation may be paid to the family. In this instance, the payment not only serves to formally acknowledge the loss but eases the financial burden for remaining family members who were dependent on the victim.

Not all human attacks are eligible for compensation. In some regions, if the attack occurred during an illegal incursion into a protected area all compensation is withdrawn. In this case it is quite common for victims not to report the incident for fear of prosecution over the incursion.

Schemes which compensate for the loss of livestock are more problematic and may be vulnerable to false claims or corruption. The remote location of many claimants can impede reporting, slowing investigation and delaying the receipt of payment. In some instances, payment may be conditional on the farmer being able to demonstrate they are adopting recommended management practices, such as the tending of livestock and use of corrals at night.

Historically, schemes which compensate for livestock have proven incredibly costly and have only had mixed success. Careful consideration should be given as to whether to such schemes are feasible and the best use of available funds. Poorly administrated schemes may do more harm than good, and result in frustration and mistrust.

Insurance schemes: Insurance schemes sometimes prove to be a better option than compensation schemes. They are often decentralised and small scale, and therefore easier to administrate. Although still costly, the fact that the costs are borne by the subscribers makes them more sustainable in the face of changing government priorities and budgets. It also reduces the likelihood of false claims, as farmers are bought in to the scheme and understand that next years premiums will be calculated based on this years’ losses.

In Bhutan, a community-based insurance scheme has been operating around Royal Manas National Park. In this scheme the pay-outs are linked to management practices, such that the pay-out for tended livestock is greater than that for livestock that is left untended. This encourages practices that reduce conflict, and therefore reduces the number of claims, making premiums more affordable (WWF 2015).