Flocks of them raid on farm fields, causing crop loss
Peacock, the national bird, is causing heavy crop loss in many parts of Palakkad district in northern Kerala by feeding on a wide variety of crops, including paddy and banana, complain farmers.
“It is estimated that around 1,700 hectare agriculture land is prone to peacock attack in the district this year,” Deputy Director of the Principal Agriculture Office in Palakkad M. Mukundan Unni said. The data was generated as part of an exercise to assess the extent of man-wild animal conflict in the district.
Mr. Unni said Kizhakkanchery of Alathur block was the worst hit, with 650-hectare farmland being considered as vulnerable to peacock attack. It was followed by Pattambi (495 hectare).
Farmers in the district said the birds were found feeding on a range of agriculture crops.
“Flocks of birds would swoop down on paddy fields and feed on the grains that are ready for harvest. Paddy is also destroyed in the process as the heavy birds crisscross the fields,” said P. Narayanan Unni, member, National Authority for the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights.
It may be a spectacular sight watching the birds elegantly moving along the ridges of paddy fields. But they are causing heavy crop loss especially during the harvest period. They don't even spare the ornamental plants in home gardens. Their population seemed to have increased in the Chittoor area, said Mr. Unni, who is also the president of Njavara (a rice variety with medicinal value) rice growers association.
The birds have attained a near-domestic status in the area. At times, they could be found roaming around homesteads. The only option before farmers was to scare them away using fire crackers, he said.
Farmers have complained that the birds were destroying groundnut and vegetable seedlings in areas such as Perumatti, Pattanchery and Kozhinjampara, said K. Asha, Assistant Director of the Agriculture Department at Chittoor block.
M. Mohanan, a farmer from Perumatty, said the birds were feeding on chilli in his farmland. Banana and paddy seemed to be their favourite feed and a flock of around 15 would come attacking the fields at a time.
Peacocks are accorded maximum protection in the country by including them in the Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act. References of the birds in Indian mythology have also provided them some cover from hunters.
The Forest Department, which recently ordered the shooting of wild boars for crop destruction, has found itself in a sticky wicket following complaints from farmers.
R. Raja Raja Varma, Chief Wildlife Warden of the State, said the department was aware of the situation. Earlier, there were complaints of the birds causing crop destruction. The department was looking into the issue, Mr. Varma said.