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The cost of conservation: who pays the price for wildlife conservation?

Adivasis and other forest-dwelling tribes have paid the price of wildlife conservation by losing their ancestral lands and livelihoods.

By Florence Das
New Update
wildlife conservation and tribals losing livelihoods

Wildlife conservation has often been seen as a success story in India, with the country being home to a significant percentage of the world's tiger population. However, the question remains: who pays the price for this success? Indigenous communities, including the Adivasis and other forest-dwelling tribes, have paid the price of wildlife conservation through the loss of their ancestral lands and the destruction of their livelihoods.

The Price of Wildlife Conservation

The growth of India's tiger population has led to the establishment of protected areas, national parks, and wildlife sanctuaries, resulting in the displacement of indigenous communities who have been living in these forests for generations. The Indian government has enacted laws to protect the rights of these communities, but these laws have not been implemented effectively. As a result, indigenous communities are facing eviction and displacement from their ancestral land.

The Royal Bengal Tiger at Nagarhole National Park
The Royal Bengal Tiger at Nagarhole National Park | Photo: Shriya Palchaudhuri/Wikimedia Commons

The Impact on Nagarhole Adivasi Groups

Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka is home to several Adivasi communities who have been living in the forests for centuries. The growth of the tiger population has led to the establishment of protected areas, resulting in the displacement of these communities. According to reports, over 2,500 Adivasi families have been displaced from the Nagarhole area, and many have lost their livelihoods due to the closure of wildlife tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The impact of displacement on Adivasi communities goes beyond the loss of their homes and livelihoods. These communities have deep connections to their ancestral lands, and their way of life is intimately tied to the forests. The loss of their lands has led to the erosion of their cultural practices and traditions, resulting in the loss of their identity.

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The Need for Sustainable Conservation

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for sustainable conservation that takes into account the needs and rights of indigenous communities. The closure of wildlife tourism and the restriction of access to forests during the pandemic has had a severe impact on the livelihoods of these communities, highlighting the need for sustainable livelihood options that do not rely solely on tourism.

Furthermore, conservation efforts need to be based on a recognition of the traditional knowledge and practices of indigenous communities. These communities have been living in harmony with nature for centuries and have developed unique knowledge and practices for the sustainable use of forest resources. Integrating this knowledge into conservation efforts can lead to more sustainable and effective conservation models that benefit both wildlife and indigenous communities.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while the growth of India's tiger population is a positive development, it should not come at the cost of the displacement of indigenous communities. The Indian government needs to recognize the rights of these communities. And, work towards a sustainable model of conservation that takes into account their traditional knowledge and practices. Only then can we achieve a truly sustainable and equitable model of wildlife conservation.

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