As the population in India steadily grows, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of people dying due to human-wildlife conflict. The latest government figures reveal that over the past three years, one person dies on average every day due to tiger and elephant attacks.
The official statistics cover the period between April 2014 and May of this year. During these 1,143 days, animals have killed 1,144 people. As humans have expanded into what was once wilderness and are competing more and more with the wildlife that still clings on in these patches, it seems that an increasing number of people are falling victim to the animals.
The number of people killed by elephants and tigers currently shows no signs of slowing, and the Indian environment ministry has pledged to run awareness campaigns to minimize the casualties. The figures show that elephants are responsible for 1,052 of the total recorded deaths, while tigers killed the remaining 92 who lost their lives.
In contrast, the statistics also show how many wild animals were killed by humans over this period of time. Humans are apparently killing a leopard a day in India, even though they are not responsible for any of the deaths reported, while 345 tigers and 84 elephants have also been killed. Both of these species are endangered.
By far the animal causing the largest loss of human life is the elephant. With around 30,000 still thought to roam the wilderness in India, the animals now compete with humans for a range of resources. Many people have died because they failed to get out of the elephants' way as they raided farmers' crops or entered villages in search of food.
Another significant factor is that humans have now expanded development into the pathway of these mighty beasts’ traditional migration routes. After thousands of years of following the same avenues, they are now finding their way blocked by roads, railways, and factories.
With only around 2,200 tigers still thought to roam the vast forests and grasslands of India, you might think that they would cause little trouble. But after India launched a nationwide conservation initiative to protect the animals in the 1970s, tigers have seen their numbers steadily rise. The problem, according to conservationists, is that even though numbers of the cat have increased, the size of the protected areas they live in has not, meaning the tigers are dispersing into human-dominated landscapes.
With a population of 1.3 billion people and growing, it is little wonder that humans and wildlife are increasingly coming into conflict in India. As the population continues to expand, settlements continue to encroach on the nation's last remaining tracts of wild land. Unless something is done to address this, the problem will only get worse.