How do we promote Coexistence?
India is an outlier in terms of the number of large mammals able to persist alongside a high density of humans. Two-thirds of the world's Asian elephants and tigers live alongside one-fifth of the world's human population. Elephants in particular have up to 75% of their range outside Protected Areas. Across many parts of the country, there is an exceptional level of tolerance of wildlife that could help inform the practice of nature conservation at national and global scales.
Coexistence is being increasingly discussed in conservation, but there is a lack of clarity on how to balance the needs and rights of both people and wildlife, based on principles of justice, democracy, and animal well-being.
There is an urgent need to consolidate the existing knowledge around coexistence within India, and further fill the gaps in our understanding.
The consortium is guiding a fellowship programme for early career researchers and practitioners, to undertake a range of coexistence projects across the country.
Collaboration, Clarity and Consolidation
Balancing the needs of people and animals is challenging, and means very different things in different contexts, with perhaps no universal definitions. Through the diverse areas of expertise within the Consortium, we are bringing about more collaboration between people working on similar issues around the country. To better articulate the complexity on the ground - what does coexistence with different species look like in different landscapes?
Commentary and Outreach
The mainstream media and a section of conservationists/ activists often take sides in the public discourse - either people or wildlife. This is without understanding the larger context and the challenge of coexistence, where some negative impacts on both people and wildlife are inevitable, and need to be minimised, rather than blaming one for the negative impact on the other. There is significant ‘conflict’ between groups of people, and as these get more polarized, coexistence on the ground breaks down.
Through an active engagement with the media at multiple levels, we are working to break down these dichotomies of “nature” and “society”, and shift the public narrative around human-wildlife interactions towards a more positive force that promotes rather than impedes coexistence.