Human wildlife interaction and cultural diversity in Terai Arc Landscape, Nepal
Nepal hosts a population of 26.5 million people with123 languages, 125 caste/ethnic groups, in a territory of 147,181 km2 which includes 118 distinct ecosystem types. The Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) stands out for its high biodiversity, and for being inhabited by 6.7 million people; however, it is not known the degree of cultural differences among these rural communities, and what are the implications of cultural differences for the conservation of wildlife. Additionally, in TAL several methods for conservation of wildlife are being implemented, but its effectiveness has not been assessed, considering the heterogeneity across the landscape. For the TAL area, we analyzed relationships between the distribution of ethnic groups, linguistic groups, types of conservation methods and their effect on Human Wildlife Interaction (HWI) with the aim of identifying patterns that may suggest effective and synergistic approaches to conservation of wildlife. From 2012 to 2014, different conservation method locations and HWI points were documented with help of GPS and overlay in landscape level data with a help of Arc GIS. HWI data were retrieved from field surveys as well as literature review. Similarly interaction/consultation meetings HWI areas were conducted to know the ethnic diversity and their attitude towards wild animal conservation.
Tiger, Asian Elephant and Greater one horned rhinoceros are the top mega fauna generating close association in the human dominated landscape. Human and megafauna interactions in TAL are increasing. From 2009 to 2014, tiger population increased by 63% (reaching 198 individuals). From 2011 to 2015, Greater One-Horned Rhino population increased by 21% (reaching 645 individuals in 2015). Among the six protected areas in TAL, Bardia National Park (BNP) and Chitwan National Park (CNP) have the highest levels of HWI, including animals crossing cultivation fields, eating and trampling the crops, livestock depredation, consumption of storage food, and even houses destruction by wild elephants. Tharu community were found to be significantly more tolerant to the observed nexus than people those migrated to the area. High HWIs were found at the edge of the forest (less than 1km). Therefore, conservation interventions should focus within that area for reducing HWIs. Most of the conservation methods were applied in CNP followed by BNP. Indigenous knowledge applied by Tharu community could be adopted and/or adapted by other rural communities inhabiting other areas within TAL, and in other regions of the country to enhance harmony of co-inhabitation between people and wildlife.