Human wildlife conflict in the form of crop losses, livestock predation, human casualties and retaliatory killings is one of the biggest challenges Bhutan is facing in addressing food security and conservation successes. Of all, crop losses by wildlife is the predominant human wildlife conflict in Bhutan. Over 419 metric tons of crop has been ravaged by wildlife in the past decades. Wildlife have also predated on 493 domestic animals and killed 25 people.
Maize and paddy losses by farmers due to wildlife are in the order of USD 4-5 million per year (The Agriculture Sector in Bhutan: Issues, Institutions and Policies). In addition to crop losses, wildlife damage to crops also encourage farmers to leave land fallow and migrate to urban areas for jobs. It has been estimated that fallowing of land has resulted in the loss of USD 13 million paddy equivalent for wetland and USD 44 million maize equivalent for dryland.
A range of wildlife species are responsible for crop damage. The main vertebrate pests in Bhutan are deer, sambar deer, porcupine, bear, monkey, elephant and wild boar. Wild boars are the single biggest problem species, causing substantial losses to maize, potatoes and paddy rice at mid-altitudes across the country. Elephants cause significant problems in the south, and monkeys cause local problems across much of Bhutan.
Farmers traditionally use a range of methods for managing vertebrate pests, especially wild boar. These include shouting, banging cans, using dummy tigers, building walls, scarecrows and night guarding. These techniques can be very time consuming to implement, and are of varying effectiveness. The latest emergence in the country is the use of electrified fencing, which so far has proved very effective. However, there remains a need for a long-term and holistic approach to the human wildlife conflict management in Bhutan. In response the Safe System approach developed by WWF was introduced in Trongsa, Zhemgang, Mongar and Wangduephodrang Dzongkhags. This approach will be further piloted in other Dzongkhags.
Vertebrate Pest Species
Electric fencing is now the most widely used method used in Bhutan to protect crops from wildlife. The locally fabricated electric fencing was developed at the Renewable Natural Resources Development Centre in Wengkhar, Mongar. However, the legalization and the official approval of use in protecting crops was started only in April 2013 with the initiative of the National Plant Protection Centre; after which it was rapidly adopted by the farmers. As of December 2016, there are 1630 km length of electric fencing in the country, benefiting 10,034 households and protecting 26, 256 acres of farmland.
The energizer is the only imported material. Only IEC certified energizers are imported, as required by the Bhutan Power Corporation Limited. The remaining materials, galvanized iron, high density polyesters and iron nails, are locally available and sourced. The unit cost per kilometre of four-strand fence, excluding poles and transportation, is estimated to be between Nu. 20,409 and 28,909, depending on the power source. This increases to between Nu. 225,769 and 234,269 if iron poles are used.
Usually four-strand wires are enough to protect crops from wild boars. For elephants, there is a slight modification in the fencing. Besides the normal poles erected for fencing, there are off-set poles inclined at 45 degree after every two poles and two wire strands running on it.
Contact your local Renewable Natural Resources Office or GUPs Office within your Gewog for advice on the purchase and establishment of electric fencing.
NPPC is the national coordinating agency for materials. Energizers can be obtained from NPPC. Other materials can be obtained directly from tendered commercial suppliers.
Information on the establishment of of electric fencing can be obtained here:
Implementation Guidelines & Technical manual for installation and maintenance of electric fence:
Electric fencing installation guidelines
Electric fencing installation video:
Safety aspect of Electic fencing:
Forms for processing the Electric fencing:
Safe System Approach
Safe System of human wildlife conflict is a new holistic management approach aimed at finding long-term solutions in a landscape. It is a suite of actions across six elements: policy and legislation, mitigation, prevention, response, monitoring and understanding the conflict. Each element contributes to a single long-term goal for an area; to make an area safe for people, assets, wildlife and their habitats.
The Safe System approach begins with a rapid assessment of the conflict using user-friendly questionnaires developed in an Excel sheet. Each outcome, safe people, safe asset, safe wildlife, and safe habitat, contains questionnaires that require certain criteria to be met to make it safe. Based on the outcomes, weak and strong areas are identified and intervention strategies are developed, accordingly.
In a nutshell, a Safe System approach:
- Has a single long term goal: to make the area safer.
- Has a baseline for safety.
- Ensures that all six conflict elements are addressed.
- Can be applied to any conflict context or species.
- Accounts for the drivers of conflict – e.g. habitat loss.
- Aligns HWC management decisions with existing development plans and processes that contribute to economic, human, and environmental goals.
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