Transboundary LandscapesKLCDI
Mapping human‒wildlife conflict hotspots in a transboundary landscape in the Eastern Himalaya

The study identifies human-wildlife conflict (HWC) hotspots in the Kangchenjunga Landscape in the Eastern Himalaya and investigates the relationship between ongoing HWC and associated drivers in the landscape.

It also examines conflict hotspots considering ecoregions and the protected areas. This is expected to help in the prioritization of areas for conservation and for the formulation of future strategies to address HWC issues.

The results suggest that about 19% of the area (total 4,710 km2 of the landscape) is at high risk of human‒wildlife conflict, with an anthropogenic factor ‒ distance to roads ‒ as the top predictor.

The research further reveals that some ecoregions and protected areas are at higher risk than others. The Himalayan subtropical pine forest ecoregion is a high HWC zone (~ 63 per cent), followed by the Terai‒Duars savannah and grasslands ecoregion (~43 per cent).

The Kangchenjunga Landscape encompasses parts of eastern Nepal, India (North Bengal and Sikkim), and southwestern Bhutan, and is spread over about 25,100 km2. More than seven million people live in the Kangchenjunga Landscape.

The landscape is home to some flagship species, such as the Asian elephant (Elephasmaximus), royal Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris), the greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), gaur (Bosgaurus); red panda (Ailurusfulgens), clouded leopard (Neofelisnebulosa), takin (Budorcas taxicolor); snow leopard (Panthera uncia), musk deer (Moschuschrysogaster), Himalayan black bear (Ursusthibetanus), and Tibetan antelope (Pantholopshodgsonii).

The 19 protected areas in the KL region are disconnected from each other and the lack of biological corridors for dispersing wildlife leads to widespread human-wildlife encounters and conflict.

The study examined over 50 news articles, journals, and reports to collect locations of HWC incidents for all available species for the last 19 years (2000‒2019). A total of 250 points of HWC occurrence were identified from the landscape, with 60% of these in low elevation regions (<300 masl).

The probability of HWC was also found to be highest in areas with moderately dense concentrations of livestock, about 200‒400 livestock/sq km.

The four most important factors adding to HWC are: (a) distance to a road; (b) elevation; (c) livestock density; and (d) mean annual temperature.

Human-wildlife conflict is a transboundary issue and greater regional cooperation is needed for both mitigation actions and for enhancing wildlife habitats and corridors.

The transboundary Kangchenjunga Landscape Initiative could enable greater cooperation among the three countries to address the transboundary aspects of the conflict, including through better legislative provisions, better conservation planning, upscaling mitigation actions and best practices, and increasing awareness among community groups.