Tigers, elephants, and other large, charismatic animals are much beloved in the west but, as Pulitzer Center grantee Rachel Nuwer explains, they pose a dire threat to the livelihoods and lives of people who must live with them on a daily basis.
India houses around 70 percent of the world's remaining 4,000 wild tigers, but tigers regularly kill livestock and sometimes claim human victims as well. A growing animal welfare movement among urban Indians seeks to ensure that problem tigers—including man-eaters—are protected from harm, but tiger experts argue that the only way to deal with such animals is to kill them. When man-eating tigers are not disposed of quickly, local people quickly turn on them—and on the government. India has the resources and space for some 10,000 or more wild tigers, but in order for its tiger population to eventually expand to those numbers, the country must become better at minimizing conflict.
As India is a stronghold for tigers, Sri Lanka is for Asian elephants. Sri Lanka accounts for just two percent of total Asian elephant range, yet holds 10 percent of remaining Asian elephant populations. Elephants live all over the island nation and regularly raid crops, knock down homes and occasionally kill people. Retaliatory killings abound, with over 300 elephants killed last year alone. Experts argue that long-time government mismanagement has exacerbated the problem and that simple solutions, such as fencing in crops, can greatly reduce human-elephant conflict. Pilot programs in conflict hotspots show that it is possible to live peacefully with elephants, if only solutions are implemented in a scientifically-sound way.