Wild Tiger Health Project
Created by Dr John C M Lewis

hide resource menu

Human-tiger conflict: Preventative measures

Preventative measures aim to reduce conflict by targeting the causes. For such measures to be successful, care must be taken to ensure they do not result in economic hardship and, wherever possible, have clear and demonstrable community benefits. It is unlikely that HTC will be eliminated altogether, and care should be taken to manage expectations. It should be clear that the aim of these measures is to reduce the conflict as far as possible rather than eradicate it. Claiming the latter, risks community frustration and disengagement if some level of conflict persists.

Improved livestock management is probably the most significant way to reduce tigers predating on livestock. Grazing livestock within protected areas should not be permitted. Grazing cattle at the edge of protected areas, particularly at night or very early in the morning, should be discouraged as should grazing in any forested or bushy areas which might allow a tiger to hide.

Wherever possible livestock should be tended, rather than left to roam unsupervised, and corralled at night. Where corals are used, fencing should be of sufficient height and strength to effectively deter a predator and protect the livestock within. Poorly designed coral fencing may be counter-productive – simply grouping all the animals together and hindering their escape should a tiger attack. Clearing foliage away from corals and using solar powered lighting (WWF, 2015) may act as additional deterrents. Grazing cattle with buffalo may help reduce conflict, as the larger buffalo are more defensive towards tigers. However, tigers have been known to hunt buffalo, so this system is not fool proof. Similarly, the use of guard dogs may be helpful, particularly for raising the alarm when a predator is near a coral. However, once again, tigers have been known to predate dogs so this could have the opposite effect of drawing tigers in.

Reducing livestock numbers could prove useful, although this is unlikely to be popular with villagers unless coupled with incentives or alternative sources of income. One approach is to provide veterinary support to farmers, thereby reducing the parasite and disease burdens of the livestock, resulting in smaller, more productive, herds. Increasing the productivity will also increase the value of each individual animal and may mean farmers are more willing to invest time and resources in their upkeep. The flips side of this, is that any losses that do occur may have a greater economic impact and inspire greater resentment.

Improved management of wild prey: Hunger is one of the main drivers of HTC. By ensuring a healthy population of wild prey, the number of livestock depredations could be reduced. Legislation banning hunting and poaching in and around protected areas will only be effective if enforced. Regular ranger patrols should remove snares and efforts should be made to identify and prosecute offenders. At the same time, efforts should be made to restore degraded habitat. Invasive plant species should be removed and access by livestock should be restricted.

Where prey numbers have fallen particularly low, translocation may be necessary to boost population recovery. The success rate of such ventures is variable, and some species may be more suitable for translocation than others. The IUCN provide comprehensive guidelines on translocations (accessible here), and all translocations should be carried out in accordance with these guidelines and only after poaching controls and habitat restoration have been achieved.

Zoning refers to land use planning designed to reduce the overlap between humans and their livestock, and wildlife. In some cases, this may involve the relocation of people away from tiger habitat and corridors to areas where encounters are less likely to occur. The relocation of people can be highly controversial and needs to be handed with great care. In other cases, zoning may simply involve restricting access to protected areas and buffer zones. The use of physical barriers such as fencing can help with this, serving both to keep animals in and people out. Fencing needn’t always be substantial to have an impact, nylon fencing used around protected areas in Bangladesh has successfully restricted movement in both directions (WWF 2015). For people the psychological impact of a barrier may be greater than the physical obstacle. By clearly delineating the boundary there can be no uncertainty as to where a protected area starts or whether or not a person entered intentionally. Such barriers may be particularly useful when villages are adjacent to protected areas and casual incursion is common. However, large scale fencing, completely encompassing protected areas, should be avoided as this will restrict dispersal and increase fragmentation. Lighting may also be used to highlight a divide and create psychological barriers. In India the use of solar powered street-lights has proven successful in deterring stray tigers from entering villages (WWF 2015).

Buffer zones are frequently misinterpreted. The intention is to provide spatial separation, and a gradual transition, between protected areas and surrounding communities. However, economic and social pressures mean that many buffer zones are heavily populated and grazed. This has resulted in some buffer zones becoming hotspots for conflict. Large scale agriculture, such as palm oil production, may provide an unlikely solution. By excluding livestock and restricting human presence, plantations may serve to separate humans from wildlife, whilst still deriving economic benefit from the land (Karanth and Gopal 2005). However, much like fencing, these landscapes may provide a barrier to dispersal if they are overused. Any reduction in conflict must be balanced with the need for retained connectivity.

Incentive schemes: There are two main kinds of incentive scheme, indirect and direct. Indirect schemes aim to provide alternative income streams and reduce the reliance on practices which promote conflict. There are a multitude of terms used to describe such projects including “community-based conservation”, “sustainable forest management”, “biodiversity enterprises” and “integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs)”. Many of these focus on alternatives to logging, such as sustainable harvest of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and ecotourism. The drawback of such schemes is that often, rather than replacing existing practice, these alternative income streams are often seen as additional. In other words, while many communities may engage with the project, and even be successful in generating alternative incomes, there may be little to no reduction in the targeted activities or behaviour.

In contrast direct incentive schemes are conditional, meaning that the alternative income is only achieved if certain behaviours are avoided. This can make them more efficient and effective, however this will only be the case if there is a clear advantage and sufficient local buy in. An example of a successful incentive scheme is the work done by WWF and the Sundarbans Biosphere reserve (SBR) to reduce the incidence of human tiger conflict associated with wild honey collection. In the past, honey collection has proved to be a dangerous profession. Over a third of the people killed by tigers in the Sundarbans were collecting honey at the time, resulting in the term ‘blood honey’. Under the scheme WWF and SBR worked with local honey collectors to set up forest-based apiaries which were fenced off from the surrounding area. Using the apiaries increased the amount of honey collected by two-fold and improved safety. The scheme is now being expanded to other areas.

Reduction of injuries to tigers: In one study reviewing the health status of 13 Amur tigers that attacked humans (Goodrich et al., 2011a) the authors found that 62% had injuries acquired from people who had injured them intentionally or accidentally in traps set for other species. Increasing anti-poaching activities and reducing illegal hunting should be priorities. Rangers should be encouraged to find and remove snares and traps. Local people should also be educated and made aware of the risks of using snares and traps.

Communities should be advised against hunting tigers in retribution for attacks or attacking tigers they encounter in the forest or in the village. The only exception to this would be in self-defense or defense of another person where there is an immediate threat to life. In all other circumstances they should not engage with the tiger, but instead should be advised to contact their local HTC team (if there is one) which can then deal with the situation. For this system to work, and for villagers to trust their local HTC team, it is essential that authorities respond rapidly to all reports of conflict and communicate their response effectively to local communities.

Education: How to respond if you encounter a tiger: Tigers do not normally preferentially predate people or livestock, but may be driven to conflict by human actions.Training should be provided to communities living close to tiger habitat on how to respond should  someone encounter a tiger, and ways in which to reduce the likelihood of this occurring (such as travelling in groups and making noise to alert tigers of your approach). There are typically four different types of tiger encounter – crossed paths, non-aggressive advances, defensive behaviour and predation attempts. Training should be provided on how to recognise each one, and the best course of action in each case.