As time goes by, the conflict between humans and animals is ever growing. How? As the demand to satisfy human needs grows, humans have found themselves encroaching and competing with wild animals for their habitats. This does not only serve as a threat to the wild but also to our own existence. The implications of human encroachment on the wildlife habitats is far more dangerous than to our benefit. What will befall us when a series of diseases such as COVID-19, Lassa Fever, Anthrax and Ebola among others hits us every now and then? In this article, the discussion centers on the One Health implication that could arise from mediating the Human-Wildlife conflict. Here, we go deeper into what the human-wildlife conflict is, the public health challenge associated with this, and the mediators of a conflict that could arise.
On the outlook, the International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN] sees Human-wildlife conflict as the negative interactions between humans and wild animals. To it, it relates to situations where wild animals gain access into the human environment due to close proximity leading to the destruction of people’s livelihoods, property, or even life.
On the flip side, humans also pose a threat to the existence of these wild animals through the destruction of wild animal habitats or even killing them when found in human space where they are perceived as a threat. There have been numerous incidents of this sort in India. Elsewhere in the world, these kinds of incidents occur in places near habitats for wild animals such as game reserves, national parks, and other protected areas.
IUCN’s reservations are rooted in the fear that the animal population is at a higher chance of decreasing as a result of this confrontation. Fear from another perspective is that humans, too, are at a risk of suffering zoonotic diseases as a result of their close contact with wild animals. The most cited causes of this conflict are overpopulation of humans and the resulting destruction of wildlife habitats for activities of human settlement. Activities such as deforestation expose a variety of species such as bats, buffaloes, foxes, snakes and many other animal species to living destitutes which in the end leads to a decline in their population or health risks to humans.
Conservationists suggest that the demarcation of animal and human spaces has a dual benefit for animal conservation and for the prevention of spillovers. In fact, this trickles into the environment as degenerative activities like deforestation would be rendered ineffective in triggering climate change.
Challenges from Human-wildlife conflict
Disease Outbreaks have been pointed out as a possible outcome of the human-wildlife conflict. The way in which this works varies from species to species that are being rendered homeless. For example, the destruction of forests –one of the dwelling places for bats poses a significant health challenge; it exposes humans to many risks of contracting diseases. Bats are known to be carriers of a number of diseases such as rabies, SARS-COVID, Marburg, and Ebola. Another example would be buffalos which are known to carry bovine brucellosis in humans. So, it can’t be denied that when humans destroy habitats for bats and burn bushes where buffalos live, an outbreak of Ebola or brucellosis would be inevitable.
Another challenge of the Human-Wildlife conflict is tied to the extinction of biodiversity. Living in a biodiverse constrained world would mean deprivation from enjoying the essential functions that the extinct species play presently. The emphasis here is that, the more biodiverse species there are in the world, the more balance we have to sustain human, animal, and plant life. For example, deforestation would incapacitate the pollinating abilities of birds as they will lack a base from which to carry out their activities that result in pollination. It’s common knowledge that pollination results in food for animals and humans or even preservation of the flora. Another illustration of the indispensable space of the wild is their contribution to climate, which humans can’t do without in its moderation. It is said that the Amazon Forest is responsible for capturing a substantial amount of carbon dioxide that’s emitted into the atmosphere. It is also widely known that the same environment is home to the 6400-kilometer-long Amazon River, which sustains a number of people with essential amenities like food, water for agriculture, and medicine, to mention but a few.
Mediators to avert this conflict
As humans, we are responsible for mediating this conflict, for it’s only us with the ability to truly articulate the danger of not having a common ground with wild animal spaces. It’s us who should develop remorse for the dangers that we expose ourselves, animals, and plant species, when we invade spaces that have been earmarked for the wild. Our increased contact with animals not only has far reaching negative consequences for animals and plants but also places us in a critical situation. Such issues could be anywhere near suffering spillovers, to suffering the extreme effects of climate change. The best we could do to mediate the human-wildlife conflict is to:
I) Strengthen laws and policies in protected areas: There should be an increase in the scope and depth of coverage in protected areas law and policy
II) Close observance of laws and policies on protected areas: Commitments of human, technological, and financial resources should be realized, and harmonized to avert encroachers of protected areas.
In conclusion, the intricate relationship between human-wildlife conflict and One Health is incontestably complex and multifaceted. This article highlighted the consequences of such conflicts reaching far beyond the immediate physical impacts on both humans and wildlife. They extend to environmental degradation, public health threats, economic challenges, and social disruptions.
It is our responsibility as humans to mediate between the human-wildlife conflict. The dangers that the human-wildlife contact threatens the very existence of humans, animals, and plant species. As the number of animals and plants could suffer the wrath of invasive human activities, the health of humans and factors contributing to it would be at risk of being compromised. Strengthening the legal and policy frameworks regarding protected areas and implementing them to the dot promise better human, environmental and animal health outcomes.
To mitigate the human–wildlife conflict, we must embrace the One Health approach. By doing so, we will be able to protect our ecosystems and wildlife but also safeguard human health and well-being, as well as promoting a harmonious coexistence between humans, animals, and the environment.