Published May 14, 2008 09:16 AM
GENEVA (Reuters) - Elephants and other wildlife damage millions of dollars' worth of poor farmers' crops each year, which could be avoided with proper fencing and better land use, a leading environmental group said on Wednesday.
The Swiss-based WWF, formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund, said wild elephants cost Namibian communal farmers $1 million a year, and up to a quarter of the household incomes of poor farming families in Nepal.
Indonesian palm oil companies and other agri-businesses can also lose significant income from elephant encroachment and efforts to keep them off farms, according to WWF.
"Governments could save human lives and millions of dollars in crop and income losses for the rural poor through better consideration of the needs of wildlife," it said in a report describing the competition between wild elephants and people for land, food and water in Nepal, Indonesia and Namibia.
The increasing human population and destruction of animal habitats by globalwarming mean people and wildlife were living closer together than ever before, often creating serious problems.
"When wildlife lose their natural habitats and have reduced access to natural food sources, they eat agricultural crops, livestock, and can destroy property and can injure or kill people," the WWF report found.
Many communities capture or kill animals in retaliation for such damage, threatening biodiversity in already vulnerable and impoverished areas, the conservation group said.
Namibian crop enterprises located near unfenced wildlife habitats can be "entirely economically unviable", the WWF said, recommending that farms be set up as far from such areas as possible. Governments should not offer incentives for farming in areas near wildlife zones, it said.