Wild Seve: Addressing Human- Wildlife Conflict around India’s Premier Wildlife Reserves

Transforming people’s interactions with wildlife through compensation, conflict mitigation and economic empowerment

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Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Dr. Krithi Karanth

Initiative's representative date of birth

3 March 1979

Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • India

Headquarters location: city

Bangalore

Where are you making a difference?

India, Karnataka, >600 village settlements surrounding Bandipur and Nagarahole Tiger reserves.

Website or social media url(s)

Website: http://www.cwsindia.org/ Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cwsindia Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cwsindia Twitter: https://twitter.com/cwsindia?lang=en

Date Started

July 2015

Project Stage

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €10k - €50k

Organization Type

  • Nonprofit/NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

In 2012, when Dr. Krithi Karanth was studying farmers’ coexistence with wildlife, she found people often responded to losses with anger towards wildlife. But one woman expressed, “Elephants and tigers have as much right to this space as we do. They have lived alongside us for hundreds of years”. Touched, Dr. Karanth realised that these people need support and facilitating compensation needed to be an immediate priority. Monetary compensation is provided to people affected by human-wildlife conflict, but cumbersome application processes and heavy transaction costs are hindrances. As everyone in the area had cell phones, CWS only needed to set up a toll free number, and people could receive immediate assistance with compensation claims!

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

In Karnataka, farmers living around wildlife reserves face loss of livelihoods and lives on an almost-daily basis. Despite the use of electric fences, chilli bombs and firecrackers to ward off wildlife, financial losses are severe. Increasing frustration levels in victims have often caused mob mentalities and retaliatory killings of wildlife, despite widespread inherent cultural tolerance for animals. Such clashes pose unique threats to the sustainability of farming communities and wildlife.

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Wild Seve (‘Seve’ stands for service in Kannada) was started in 2015 to expedite action during human- wildlife conflict incidents. Using a web-portal, toll-free helpline and SMS reporting system, we created a local response team with our field staff, who arrive on site and assist with evaluating and filing claims. Data is collected on mobile platforms using Open Data Kit (ODK) system that allow us to collect data even when phone networks are not available. On average, a farmer spends ~Rs. 454 (€6) to prepare the compensation application, and has to wait for several days for his complaint to be addressed and registered with the forest department. Data collected since 2015 show an average of 250-300 days delay from when claims were filed to the time people received compensation. Wild Seve intervenes by filing claims and following up on behalf of the afflicted families, thereby reducing time and travel costs associated with multiple follow-up trips to government offices. We have reduced the processing time by several days, responding to 98% of the cases in 24 hours, and 100% of the cases within 48 hours. Average transaction cost per incident has reduced from Rs.454 (€6) to 0.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

Often, resolving human-wildlife conflict is as simple as showing support on time, and spreading awareness on animal behaviour and mechanisms for co-existence. Using an array of mobile-based technology (a mobile application, a server to collect and manage data, and a dashboard for project oversight) has helped us track each individual distress call. We have 8 field assistants who are recruited locally, and are well- versed with areas they are assigned. This helps us respond almost immediately to conflict instances and help victims. An in-depth knowledge of the filing process and great on- ground interpersonal relationships with officials handling compensation has helped us resolve occasional issues with difficult paperwork.

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

Wild Seve operates on the philosophy of working with government agencies and the people to streamline the compensation process and help mitigate human-wildlife conflict. To improve the compensation budgets allocated for different types of conflict, we are partnering with Vidhi, an NGO doing legal research to make better laws and improve governance for the public good. As we expand our project goals to include safety and first- aid programs for dealing with conflict, we will collaborate with veterinarians and doctors to provide training. Our next phase involves supplementing farmer livelihoods by introducing them to beekeeping, for which we will collaborate with the state horticulture department, and with local bee farmers.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

Manjula, 35, and her husband live very close to Nagarahole National Park. One November night, she had tied goats to her fence and was sleeping, when a leopard killed 4 goats- a huge loss for the couple who live off their livestock. When a neighbour insisted that they reach out to Wild Seve, Manjula contacted our field assistant. Vishwanath arrived on scene with a veterinarian to help verify their loss and file for claims with the forest department. Compensation worth Rs. 12000 (~ €150) has been approved for Manjula in the first instalment. Wild Seve has helped >7000 such individual farmers and their families, with >15,600 human- animal conflict cases since July 2015. We estimate that our efforts have helped people receive ~Rs. 47,043,748.52 (about €600,000) in compensation. We have reduced the processing time by several days, responding to 98% of the cases in 24 hours, and 100% of the cases within 48 hours. Average transaction cost per incident has reduced from Rs.454 (~ €6) to 0.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

We have reached >600 villages around Bandipur and Nagarahole reserves in Karnataka. We aim to expand to multiple reserves in other conflict states in India. We are also collaborating with an NGO working on policy reform to improve compensation rates to reflect current market values. Our research found communities lacking in response mechanisms during encounters with wildlife. We are developing modules to train 60 villages around Bandipur and Nagarahole reserves on safety and first aid. Wildlife conflict causes heavy losses to farmers. We aim to supplement livelihoods by training a subset of people in beekeeping. We will provide ~100 farmers in Bandipur and Nagarahole with a beekeeping kit (estimated benefit is Rs. 24000 or €300).

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

CWS’s research rationales and conservation initiatives are founded in the need to understand the spaces we share with wildlife, and pick the right paths to coexist with nature. By expediting mitigatory actions and providing alternate livelihood options, we are transforming farmer- government- wildlife interactions. Through innovative teaching approaches, we aim to increase public safety, change perceptions and foster tolerance for wildlife across generations. By collaborating with the right stakeholders, we are advocating for policy reform to enhance livelihoods. Through citizen science initiatives and volunteering opportunities, we are encouraging wildlife conservation stewardship.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Wild Seve operations are currently funded through granting organisations such as Oracle and US Fish and Wildlife Studies. In addition to grants, we receive support from private and corporate donors, fundraisers and in-kind donations to keep Wild Seve’s momentum going. We have a dedicated team within CWS that focuses on establishing a strong financial foundation for Wild Seve.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

Dr. Krithi Karanth with 2 decades of experience, will serve as Principal Investigator, having developed the program design and structure. Vinay Kumar, Associate Director, with 40+ years of experience and Anubhav Vanamamalai, our program manager will jointly supervise implementation across various landscapes. Project coordinators and locally recruited field assistants will execute on-ground operations. CWS research fellows will handle the data analytics of the entire program.

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • FundsforNGOs

Attachments (1)

Wild Shaale.jpg

Children in communities near Karnataka's protected areas are impacted by negative interactions with wildlife, even as they retain curiosity and affinity towards animals. To help them nurture interest, foster tolerance and learn mechanisms to coexist with wildlife, CWS began an education and awareness program in 2018. For India, Wild Shaale (‘Shaale" stands for school in Kannada) is a first-of-its-kind conservation education program, targeted for school-going children between the age 10 and 13.

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