“Hanging saris along the fence of farm lands is very effective, but it is not a practical solution on a large scale”

There has been a great demand for old saris in and around Kodaikanal. They are tied along the perimeter fences of farmlands and gardens. If one wonders how these old saris are useful in farms and gardens, here is the answer. They keep Indian gaurs at bay. When this correspondent visited Pannaikadu on Vathalagundu — Kodaikanal Road, a large number of saris were found tied along the fence of a farmland. The animals may hesitate to enter the farmlands mistaking the display of different colours of saris as some concrete buildings. This technique has helped the villagers to keep the gaurs away, says Arun Shankar, vice-president of the Palani Hills Conservation Council.

According to Joe Homan, founder, Perumbarai Environment Centre, the first gaur was sighted in the village in 2009.

It was a male weighing nearly 180 kg. For a few months, the animal disappeared from the village only to be back in Perumbarai with a herd. Mr. Homan says: “It is dangerous to go out at night as the animals often stand motionless on the paths, which people use for going from one building to another in the village. Fortunately, till date, none of our employees or guests has faced any problem from these gentle giants. We have tried various ways to keep the gaurs out. Surprisingly, hanging old saris along the fence of farm lands is very effective, but it is not a practical solution on a large scale.”

It was an unexpected encounter for S. Nagendran, a worker in a farm in Kanakkadu on Batlagundu — Thandikudi Road. Last Monday around 11.30 a.m., he went to pluck oranges from a tree. While returning, he saw two gaurs and on hearing his movement, the animals stood up and ran through a bush, where Nagendran was hiding. He was pushed by the gaurs, but luckily, he escaped unhurt.

Indian gaurs straying into the estates and gardens in Kodaikanal town and the nearby villages are a recent phenomenon. It began a couple of years ago, says K. Balakrishnan, a Kodai-based organic farmer. Reduction in the number of poaching incidents led to an increase in their population in the wild.

Vasu Balakrishnan, his wife, points out that another factor responsible is the disappearance of grasslands in the forest areas due to plantation of invasive species such as eucalyptus, pine and wattle.

These species have totally put an end to the growth of grass at the same time left very little space for the gaurs to move around in the forest areas.

Poor forest management led the gaurs to search for feed in the town.