Wild dogs are another grave threat to mules in these regions

Even as the man-animal conflict haunts the hill station, conflicts between wild and domestic animals have threatened the beleaguered farmers and their very survival.

Now, mules, one of the prime modes of transport for farmers to carry agri-commodities from farms, mostly on hill slopes, to the road, have been facing threat from Indian Gaurs. Four mules were killed within two weeks.

Conflict over space and food between the two species has been increasing in the hill, said A. Malai Raja of Sirumalaipudhur, who lost his mule recently.

Commencement of jackfruit season signals the beginning of mule-gaur conflicts. With no water and food owing to acute drought on the hill, withered jackfruits on the farm are the only feed available to Indian gaurs.

Mules too will fight for the sumptuous feed. In the battle, the wild guars kill their weak rival.

When a mule lifts its hind legs to attack, the gaur buts the lower abdomen of the mule killing it instantly, he says.

Wild dogs are another grave threat to mules. They come in groups and attack the lone mule suddenly. When Indian Gaurs kill a mule, they leave the carcass there. But, wild dogs swallow everything leaving no trace of the mule. “In such circumstances, we cannot even get a post mortem certificate.”

Already, rising human population and cultivable lands have shrunk the natural habitats for wild animals.

Its impacts are huge. Farmers lose their crops, livestock and property and sometimes, even human lives are lost. On the other side, animals face shrinking habitat and threat to their survival.

Farmers lose 10 to 15 per cent of their total agricultural output to gaurs and other wild animals every year.

The loss is disproportionately high for rural farmers to bear, farmers feel. Compensation for livestock lost to predators is the need of the hour. The only solution to this persistent crisis is to insure animals.

Insurance corporations should offer insurance cover to mules and give compensation in case of death, farmers appeal.

“Loss of a mule and crop to predators would destroy a family’s wealth and the way of life overnight. How can we bear such a loss,” questions S. Periasamy, another farmer.

While accepting that wildlife conflicts adversely affected the well being of communities, forest officials say that wild animals are being squeezed into small and smaller areas.

Depriving animals of their natural habitat, increase in human population, loss and fragmentation of existing habitat worsen animal-human conflicts further.

At the same time, small and tiny farmers are solely dependent on natural ecosystems for their survival.

Two pronged strategies to protect farming community and wild animals is need of the hour.