Over 1000 Nepalese villagers have now received training in how to protect livestock and crops and avoid conflict with Himalayan bear species through a Taronga Field Conservation Grant.
In 2011, National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) won a Taronga Field Conservation Grant to determine the distribution and abundance of Himalayan Black Bear and Brown Bear and human‐bear conflict in Manaslu Conservation Area in Nepal. Manaslu Conservation Area (MCA) is recognized as a “biodiversity hot spot” in central Nepal and covers seven Village Development Committees (VDCs).
Two species of bear are found in MCA ‐ the Himalayan Black Bear (found in the middle of the forests) and the Brown Bear (found at higher altitudes above the timber line). Human-bear conflict is on the rise in the area, along with crop‐raiding, damage and livestock predation by bears, which are major causes of concern for local communities.
The field project aimed to collect data on the distribution and abundance of bears and evaluate the economic loss they potentially cause in MCA to better understand the extent of human-bear conflict.
By working closely with local communities, project members could obtain critical information on villagers’ losses. The Black Bears were considered the most problematic because they prefer the local staple food (maize), they are aggressive and nocturnal. The Black Bear was recorded in all VDCs whereas the Brown Bear was only reported in two of the VDCs. The Brown Bear is considered a seasonal visitor, only seen during summer.
Between 2009 and 2012, there was an increase in crop damage, livestock killing and human casualties caused by Black Bear. The resulting average economic loss in 2012 from crop damage/livestock killing was considerable, USD 2,235 and USD 30,000 respectively. Communities sometimes retaliate through traps, snares or by shooting; the bears are also poached for their gall bladder.
There is a high demand from the local communities that the project intervenes with concrete activities (e.g. fencing, solar electric fence etc). Barbed wire was considered as the most preferred mitigation measure followed by electric fencing, and sound and firecrackers.
Project staff ran workshops and awareness campaigns for more than 1000 local villagers and provided information materials such as posters and stickers on bears in the local language. Night vigilance groups were trained in targeted communities to protect crops and livestock from bear raiding.
It is a positive step that retaliatory killings of bears is not condoned, even with the heightened raiding and loss to the villagers.
- Lesley Small