Economics is an integral part of conservation as it plays an important role in determining people’s attitude towards wildlife. Out of 1.3 billion people in India, approximately 400 million live near forested areas with 2500 tigers and 8000 leopards in their backyards. Their livelihood option is hugely dependent on exploiting the natural resources. I looked into the variations in cost:benefit ratio of people staying near protected areas in a part of the Central Indian tiger landscape to investigate whether it varies according to distance to understand how economics shapes attitudes and affect conservation. I used close-ended structured questionnaire along a gradient of distance of settlements from the core area to examine perceived loss of human property and how attitude varies. The data was cross-validated using reliable secondary data resources. Market prices for depredated livestock and crop and collected non-timber forest produces were considered to calculate the cost:benefit ratio. The results were contemplated in the light of people’s attitude. 78% of the local residents said that the protected area was detrimental for them. Loss of human property remained same along the gradient of distance from the core area. Cost incurred due to human-wildlife interface was more than the benefit obtained from the forest. People who experienced more losses were more hostile towards wildlife and wanted stricter management strategies for "problem animals". Lethal control was warranted by majority of respondents for crop-raiding herbivores. Co-existence with large carnivores seemed like a plausible option for 70% of the respondents as opposed to 5% positive responses for the herbivores. Overwhelming costs of staying near protected areas with negligible incentives compel people to harbor negative attitude towards wild animals and their conservation. The co-existence between wildlife and people will be facilitated if the trade-off between losses and the benefits gained by the people are economically favorable. Sharing of benefits from ecotourism, providing alternative livelihood options can aid in fostering optimism among the locales. Central Indian landscape is a mosaic of human habitations and forested areas. The forest is not restricted to the core zone only. Buffer supports a good habitat for the animals especially ungulates. Hence the produces gained from the forest and the losses incurred to not vary to a great extent as distance from the designated core zone increases. So these kind of negative attitudes is detrimental for harmonious coexistence between man and animals. Animals residing in smaller reserves surrounded by dense human population face an even greater challenge. Active participation of local residents for long term survival of nature is essential. They are the key force to transform the conservation struggle into a success standing at this pivotal juncture.
Key words: cost:benefit ratio, attitude, co-existence