In the West, the idea of living alongside lion or leopard might be terrifying, but for many people in parts of Africa and Asia it’s just a way of life.
In many parts of India, the tiger reserves are far too small. If the tigers would just stay in their own reserves, without human intervention the population will fall rapidly as a lack of genetic variability I will leave the population incapable fighting off illness.
Now in many parts of Africa reserves set-aside for wild animals were huge, meaning that the animals didn’t have to range outside, though of course being wild they may well do so so from time to time anyway. When I was staying in our accommodation on the edge of the Kruger, members of our party saw Genet’s from time to time. While only the size of a domestic cat, and unlikely to approach a human, it’s still an old thing to meet on a walk to the toilet. There was also an occasion where we found tracks of a lion pride that had left the park and gone for a walk.
However, in many parts of Africa there are small reserves that are set in the middle of farm land. How do we live alongside these animals? One of the most important policies is to have compensation systems for any animals killed- otherwise a vengeful village may kill any predators that comes near.
Simple precautions can reduce the risk of humans being killed, such as more toilets in the village (thereby not requiring villagers to relieve themselves in the dark forest during the night, when a squatting human, might be a tempting prospect for a predator).
In India, some of the tiger reserves only have 20 or 30 individuals. This results in young having to disperse beyond the boundary of the park.
What is the solution? Well firstly, protected zones must be large enough to have viable animal populations within them. In some places by moving one or two villages, they have merged a number of reserves into 1.
In richer countries, like South Africa, small reserves will have translocation programs arranged with other reserves in the area to keep the whole animal population healthy.
Another highly important aspect is to make sure that any visit to these areas benefits that people in the surrounding zone as well. This way when the animals roam outside the national park or reserve, they will be seen as a positive resource and therefore fatal controls will be a last resort. In parts of Africa local villages have ended up creating their own protected reserve, this has led to the protection of important habitats and increasing the living standards of those in the surrounding area.
As we start to be able to travel again, whether booking through the website or elsewhere keep these problems in mind. When leaving a protected reserve, make sure to drop into the local village to spend some money and make sure that they see tourists in a positive light-you improve their standard of living perhaps also the likelihood that they will grow up to protect animals too.