Body of tribal woman who was electrocuted found

Electrified fences, booby traps, and concealed crude bombs put up to protect farmlands near forested areas from nocturnal crop raids by wild boars are proving to be lethal to human beings, the district police have said.

On Friday, the police found the body of a 68-year-old tribal woman in a rubber estate near Mele Paluvila in Pangode police station limits. Thankamma, 68, had gone to cut fodder on November 30.

The police said she had accidentally stepped on a high-power electric wire that was tautly suspended less than a metre above the ground to trap boars and died from electrocution. A local resident had laid the trap to protect his newly planted rubber saplings from wild boars. The police have detained him on the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

District Wildlife Warden Jayakrishna Sharma said a robust population of wild boars inhabited wildlife sanctuaries, reserve forests, and government's teak and mangium plantations in the district. Wild boars were prolific breeders and opportunistic eaters. Their numbers had increased substantially owing to the relative lack of natural predators, such as tigers and leopards. The wild boars seemed to have developed a taste for tapioca, yams, tender roots of banana saplings, and more recently, rubber sap and seeds.

The Forest Department often received petitions demanding compensation for crops lost to wild boars. One farmer in Nedumangad taluk claimed Rs.50,000 for an acre of tapioca allegedly destroyed by wild boars. Another complained that a sounder of wild boars had destroyed 10 cents of his rubber plantation in one night.

A police official said that farmers often countered wild boar attacks by cocooning crude bombs that detonated on impact in a mix of palm sugar, rotting poultry waste, and dried fish. Wild boars often got attracted by the stench and the devices exploded when they attempted to chew on it. Rubber tappers and tribal community members were most vulnerable to booby traps, particularly electrified fences and wires.

Wild boar meat, fat, and skin were widely shared by local farming communities, and they denied the police information on where the traps were set. Any accidents involving the devices were concealed from the authorities.

Officials of the Forest Department said nearly 50 per cent of poaching cases reported in the State related to wild boar hunting. Recently, the State government had permitted “restricted and regulated” shooting of wild boars in Wayanad, Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, and Pathanamthitta districts till 2012. A Forest official said wild boars were yet to pose a serious menace to agriculture in the district.