On the Human-Animal Conflict in Wokha

With the recent 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) debates on Human-Animal Conflict, I find it an opportune time to pen some of my Organization’s experiences while trying to figure out the best way to address the Human-Animal Conflict in our state.

 The Natural Nagas is an Organization working for the Wildlife conservation and the environment in Nagaland since 2012. 

Human population and activities have increased manifold in recent times, fragmenting the wildlife habitats and disturbing the balance in the ecosystem, leading to Human-Animal Conflict all over the State. 

Wokha District with a total geographical area of only 1628 square kilometres is packed with abundant flora and fauna, natural resources, rich soil and good climatic conditions. This rightfully coined sobriquet “Land of plenty” has increased activities of both human and animals jostling for space to survive without the increase in land, resulting in Human-Animal Conflict.

The following three extraordinary wildlife in Wokha, apart from the thousands of flora and fauna species that thrive in its rich biodiversity speaks volumes about the land of plenty. 

•    Where do you find millions of raptors of a single species congregating in a single roosting site, declaring Nagaland as the “Falcon capital of the World”? Wokha.
•    Where can you find the only habitat of the black softshell turtle which was declared extinct in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2002? Wokha.
•    Where do you find 95% of the resident wild elephants of Nagaland, and has the second highest elephant density per square kilometre after Karnataka? Wokha.

So due to the above factors, Wokha is now considered a conflict zone and the hotspot of Human-Animal Conflict in Nagaland.
Nagaland has attracted condemnation from the whole world due to the massacre of the Amur Falcons, but due to the efforts of all the stakeholders, the image of conservation in Nagaland is now highly appreciated.While still balancing the sensitive issues on conservation in the community, insensitive comments from major stakeholders can cause loss of confidence and be detrimental to the conservation efforts in the State. As the world watches, the inhumane comments are a cause for concern and casts a shadow on the new generation of Nagas who are ready to take on the world.

On a positive note, the controversial comments have triggered an unusual interest on the Human-Animal Conflict in Wokha and has reached every corner of the world. These careless comments could be a game changer and highlight the apathy towards the Human-Animal Conflict in Wokha, and address some of the issues that man and animal are facing. 

Issues of the three extraordinary wildlife of Wokha:
1.    The foreigners - the Amur Falcon migration has not been properly regulated in terms of the potential it has to benefit the community through sustainable livelihood and eco-tourism though it is now a decade since the success story of the Amur Falcon conservation brought glory to the State and Nation.
2.    The local resident – the black softshell turtle was classified as extinct in the wild (EW) in the red list of threatened species by the IUCN since 2002. Its rediscovery in the wetlands of Wozhütsupho in Akok in Wokha has again brought Nagaland into the global limelight. The black softshell turtle is in fact the only home-grown star of global renown. Yet the attention which is due to the habitat of our local hero is nowhere in sight after more than 6 years of its claim to fame.
3.    The domestic tourist – the big guys, the gentle giants are walking about satisfied and with their bellies full, enjoying the hospitality of the “land of plenty”. Why does 95% of the elephants reside in Wokha? They were forced into the hills because of the human activities in the foothills which fragmented their traditional habitat in the plains. Well, the land is rich with enough water and food through they have been trapped and cornered into the only alternative. With nearly the entire population of elephants in Wokha, the concerned stakeholders have to try and figure out a solution for coexistence of man and animals instead of relegating the gentle giants to another violent “faction”.

Another statement regarding the 8:12 casualty ratio of Man: Animal, though very condemnable and inhumane, brings up an issue that could upset the balance. The actual number of human victims could be higher as there have been reports of victims being shifted or taken away before the arrival of authorities since the families did not want to go through time consuming and expensive procedures to avail nominal relief. Random and unreported poaching of the pachyderm for their ivory is also prevalent. 

Wokha needs more attention and empathy because the community is facing the brunt of the human-animal conflict even as the State and Nation basks in the success story of Man’s coexistence with animals at the cost of uncertain calm. 

Steve Odyuo, 
The Natural Nagas