In the villages of Bandipur and Nagarhole in Karnataka, farmers suffer heavy crop losses. They wake up often to their fields rampaged and destroyed by the wild animals that live in the area. They could claim compensation, but it could take several months to come.
Desperate and running out of options, they do what they can - try to chase away the elephants with tractors or poison carcasses of animals and lay them out as bait for carnivores.
But how is that fair to the animals, whose habitat is increasingly diminishing. What is the way out of this human-animal conflict?
Prakash Matada, a Bengaluru-based filmmaker's documentary Wild Seve, explores this conundrum at the Bandipur and Nagarhole national parks in Karnataka. The 12-minute film has been selected in the âconservationâ category at the International Wildlife Film Festival.
Wild Seve follows an initiative by the same name, started by conservation biologist Dr Krithi Karanth, to help people living in conflict with animals develop increased tolerance towards wildlife by making the process for claiming compensation easier and faster for them.
The film was shot over a period of a year â from June 2015, when Dr Krithi began the initiative â over different seasons.
Prakash says that because most of these farmers are poor, they become increasingly desperate to deal with wild animals, mostly elephants, on their own. This is dangerous for the animal as well as the people.
âThey also take to poisoning the carcasses of the cattle and leaving it as bait for leopards and other predators,â Prakash tells TNM.
Through her initiative, Dr Krithi ensures that farmers donât resort to extreme measures as they are assured of quick compensation.
Prakash explains that claiming compensation is tedious and time consuming: âYou have to take photos for evidence, fill forms and contact the forest department officials. All of this takes time and costs money â neither of which the farmers really have.â
Dr Krithi's initiative mitigates the suffering by providing a toll free number which the local people can call. Those trained by Wild Seve then take photographs, gather the documents, contact and follow up with the forest department â free of charge, says Prakash. âSo if getting a compensation takes a year, the time period would reduce significantly now and people would be able to get it in three months,â he points out.
The crew had to face some risky situations will filming. âMany local people thought we were from the forest department. They wanted us to do something about their problems and the losses they were incurring instead of just shooting. You realise how desperate these people are,â Prakash says.
His experience of making over 15 short documentaries on wildlife and conversation in the past four years has taught him one thing â with the way things are going, human-animal conflict is inevitable. âNo matter how much we try to restrict the animals, they will come out. We are encroaching on their territory,â he observes.
This is the first time a film of his has made it to a film festival and that too of such repute and scale. âWe knew weâd sent the documentary to film festivals but we werenât too ambitious. We used basic cameras as this wasnât a big budget project. But weâre happy an Indian documentary on such a pertinent issue has made it this far,â Prakash shares.
Wild Seve will be screened on April 19 at the Festival in Missoula, USA. Prakash plans to hold a public screening of the film in Bengaluru later this year.
(All photos courtesy Prakash Matada)