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Human-Elephant Conflict in Kerala, India: a Rapid Appraisal Using Compensation Records

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Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is a major challenge for conservation biologists worldwide. To counter negative attitudes of people towards wildlife species, government agencies or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) frequently provide monetary compensation for losses due to crop damage or livestock depredation by wildlife. While much has been written about the challenges of using compensation schemes as a wildlife conservation tool, there has been little investigation into alternative potential benefits of compensation records. We suggest that compensation records can be used to obtain a summary overview of wildlife conflict instances that occur in a region and thereby provide an understanding of the distribution of HWC across a landscape. Further, these records provide insights on the economic prioritization given to each of the species involved in HWC and the kind of damage they cause. We tested this premise through a case study of human-elephant conflict (HEC) in districts of Kerala in southern India using state government-maintained compensation records. To this end, we constructed a conflict index and found Wayanad, Palakkad, and Kannur to be the districts most affected by HEC. An overall distribution map of HEC in any region is crucial to formulating mitigation policies for conflict management. Findings from our study, based on the compensation records, present a holistic view of conflict occurrences in Kerala and thus provide data that can be used to develop basic management strategies for HEC in the state.

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The authors would like to thank the Kerala State Forest Department for their support and Anusree NS, Anuja S, and Aditya Ganesh for help with data collection. The authors are also grateful to the Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Daniel Bates, and the two anonymous reviewers for their useful insights which helped improve the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Asmita Sengupta.

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The study used compensation records from the Kerala State Forest Department for which the authors had permission.

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Sengupta, A., Binoy, V.V. & Radhakrishna, S. Human-Elephant Conflict in Kerala, India: a Rapid Appraisal Using Compensation Records. Hum Ecol 48, 101–109 (2020).

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