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WCS. Presentation of the study tiger habitats and integrated conservation 2007

Tiger and kill, Periyar, India. by Sanjay GubbiPresentation of the study Tiger Habitats and Integrated Conservation and Development Projects: A case study from Periyar Tiger Reserve, India at the Society for Conservation Biology Final Student Award Session.

In India, tiger reserves and other protected areas (PAs) are mostly managed through protectionist approaches implemented solely by government agencies.

In the past few years there has been a major shift in conservation theory regulating tiger reserves.  A critical evaluation of the newer theories is very important and which could guide the future of tiger conservation and in turn tiger and prey numbers in the country. 

Recently an evaluation of the India Eco-Development Project implemented at Periyar Tiger Reserve was carried out by Sanjay Gubbi for WCS - India that was partly funded by 21st Century Tiger.  This study received positive feedback from leading tiger conservationists and this grant enabled its presentation to a wider audience for greater impact. 

Gubbi was invited to present his study to the final students award (12 were selected from several hundred applicants) at the annual meeting of Society for Conservation Biology held at Port Elizabeth, South Africa in July 2007.  To our delight Sanjay Gubbi was awarded joint first prize.

This presentation reached a large number of tiger biologists, conservationists and social scientists from across the world, more importantly multilateral donor agencies who are investing millions in tiger habitat conservation in India and the world over.

 What are ICDP's?

The initial project looked at the development of Integrate Conservation and Development Projects (ICDPs) in India which were established as a 5-year pilot project to run from October 1996 to June 2002 and to cover seven Protected Areas (PA's). 

ICDPs are defined as projects that link biodiversity conservation in PAs with local socio-economic development (Wells et al., 1992).  ICDPs are promoted as an answer to mitigating the pressures of human exploitation on traditional PAs, and to solving the problems of human-wildlife conflicts both within and outside PAs. Since a substantial portion of the IEDP funding is a loan from the World Bank that has to be repaid by the Indian Government over 35 years, the success of these projects are of enormous importance.

Because six of the seven PAs supported under the IEDP have tigers as their flagship species, an assessment and documentation of PTR-IEPD is of importance to set priorities for guiding future investments in tiger conservation.   

This study is one of the first to rigorously assess the impact of socio-economic measures taken under an ICDP, whether in India or elsewhere. The approach that has been taken comprises comparing the socioeconomic benefits received by, and attitudes of, beneficiaries of the IEDP with non-beneficiaries. Most (71.1%) IEDP respondents understood that they had been given benefits to reduce negative impacts on Periyar Tiger Reserve, thereby showing a very good understanding of project objectives.

 Nevertheless, local communities identified crop damage by wildlife as a key concern, yet while the IEDP had helped to set up mitigation strategies, these were not maintained. In this instance, the IEDP seemed to have been doing the right thing, but the community were uncommitted, so it may have been difficult for the IEDP to succeed regardless. Most critically, the results showed that whether or not a respondent was an IEDP beneficiary or non-beneficiary, did not influence their conservation attitude score.

Other factors, such as being eco-tourism guides, level of formal education and being unaffected by human-wildlife conflicts were shown to be more important in shaping conservation attitudes. Therefore, it is recommended that future projects should focus more on these issues to increase their chances of success.

Some of the results and issues raised

Eco-tourism was one initiative that was found to have succeeded under the IEDP. However at Periyar this only benefited about 0.8% of the 5,540 households targeted.

As a comparatively small reserve at 777 sq km and tourism is already recognised as one of the biggest threats to Periyar due to threats of fire, illegal timber feeling and large-scale litter.

Nevertheless, well-managed eco-tourism could bring in revenue and provide sustainable livelihoods to at least some local communities.

Most alternative IEDP sponsored livelihoods, apart from eco-tourism, were found to no longer function.  The bottle washing unit, rice pounding units, support for small businesses, livestock, bee-keeping, mushroom cultivation or were on the verge of closing down, including solar light marketing unit and co-operative milk marketing when this study was conducted.

Conservation education was an important component of the IEDP and US$ 0.254 million was spent on educational activities at Periyar. Although a higher percentage of those people surveyed understood the reasons for the establishment of the reserve,   it did not result in improved conservation attitudes.

Crop damage by wildlife was a key problem cited by most respondents.  The IEDP at Periyar did consult the local communities and, at their request, provided improved guarding measures. Labour to install these infrastructures was provided by the local communities. However, the communities still perceived human-wildlife conflict to be a major problem and none of the crop protection measures visited had been maintained by the EDCs that were responsible for their repair.

This suggested that either the crop protection measures were too complicated for the communities to maintain or that, without sufficient community investment in the infrastructure, there was not a sufficient sense of required ownership. 

Intervention strategies might be better based on indigenous and local techniques, rather than on electric or barbed wire fences. There has been documented failure of electric fencing as a deterrent measure in a similar project funded by the World Bank in India and in other parts of the world under other projects.

Lessons learnt from previous failures need to be incorporated into the management decision making process. Low-cost, low-tech measures such as the capsicum-based repellents and buffer crops (chillies) could be tried for elephants. A combination of traditional methods perhaps could yield better results in the longer-term.

Promotion of non-forest based livelihoods in ICDP's has been suggested in some studies to reduce the dependency on forest-based products and activities. However, even the activities promoted under the IEDP that were not dependent on forest-based activities and products, such as the bottle washing unit, rice pounding unit, shop-keeping, souvenir shops, solar light marketing, bee-keeping, mushroom cultivation and so on, were not sustained by local communities, even in the shorter term.

For longer term sustainability questions should  be asked as to what kind of incentive is needed to improve local conservation attitudes and, more importantly, result in more conservation compatible behaviour? Equally it is important to determine how long the incentives should be provided for. As the population around Periyar grows and new threats emerge the demand for incentives either through cash, kind or access to natural resources will increase. How do the limited funds available and the finite natural resource cope with the increasing demand?

One of the new threats emerging around Periyar is the falling prices of agricultural products. There are eight large tea estates on the western periphery of the reserve with an estimated workforce of over 3000 people. On the eastern periphery are 22 tea and cardamom estates with an estimated workforce of another 3000 people. The tea industry is currently facing a severe crisis and has seen a fall in both quantity and value. Due to this crisis, many labourers on tea estates have lost their employment, and have consequently shifted their income generation activities to fuelwood collection and timber smuggling from Periyar.

Positive perceptions amongst the IEDP beneficiaries towards the project were related to those with no access rights to the natural resources of the reserve and  who were unaffected by human-wildlife conflicts.

Negative attitudes were perceived to be held by those granted access rights for both commercial and subsistence extraction of forest products. This may be that the granting of rights raised community expectations of the benefits that they would receive, which turned out not to materialise.

Social conflicts have led to exclusion of certain sections of the communities and activities of certain groups formulated under the IEDP has impacted other groups leading to internal conflicts within communities.

Forest dwelling communities like the Mannans and Paliyans who practise agriculture within Periyar have been effected due to crop damage by livestock belonging to the graziers. Since these communities are marginal farmers these losses would seriously impact their livelihoods.  At PTR the community that most benefitted were those involved in high value eco-tourism activities, which brings relatively large ‘tips’ in addition to their regular salary. This has created resentment among several others  who practised legal activities, but received lower economic benefits, while people involved in illegal activities do receive higher economic benefits.

Conservation attitudes in local communities of both IEDP beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries, were found to hold similar scores towards Periyar and wildlife conservation in general. A key output of the IEDP was “to provide a firmer base of public support for PAs and increased understanding of PA biodiversity, local people, and their interactions” (World Bank 1996).

Those respondents who were part of the ecotourism enterprise set up under the IEDP held more favourable conservation attitude scores, presumably because these respondents are involved in conservation education activities and therefore have a better understanding of conservation issues. However, for the majority of the IEDP beneficiaries, receiving a project incentive had none of the intended influence on their conservation attitude scores.

Another core assumption of ICDPs is that stakeholders whose livelihoods depend on the PA should be more interested in conservation, and so providing them with incentives should lead to improved attitudes towards conservation. However, this study found that dependence on Periyar Tiger Reserve for their livelihood did not determine whether respondents would hold a positive attitude to conservation. Instead, the IEDP should have focussed more on factors that might have impacted better on conservation attitudes, and a pre-project survey would have revealed what these factors might be.

Results from this study also showed that providing household benefits such as Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) and stoves, had no influence on conservation attitude scores. The example of LPG as a household benefit to reduce dependency on the natural resources of Periyar yielded mixed results. Commercial fuels, like LPG, are more expensive than natural fuels and represent a commitment to monthly expenditure among recipient households. Thus most respondents who had received LPGs either used them partially or had completely ceased to use them because of the costs placed on the low income households, and difficulty in transportation.

Provision of household benefits or community benefits, and granting of access rights to the natural resources of the reserve made a negligible difference to influencing conservation attitude scores nor perceptions towards the Periyar Tiger Reserve. This study showed that providing access to natural resources did not lead to improved conservation attitude scores. Perhaps the cost of incentives has to be higher than the average income as with the eco-tourism jobs provided under the IEDP.

Download the full project report for more details including recommendations for scientific biological evaluation of the Periyar Tiger Reserve IEDP. 






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