K. Raju

KODAIKANAL: With incidents of man-animal conflict on the rise, hundreds of vegetable growers in Upper Kodaikanal hills have been forced to abandon their agricultural land and migrate to urban areas for survival.

Conflicts between man and wild animals, particularly wild boars and Indian gaur, are said to be more prevalent at Mannavanur, Keezhana Vayal, Koombur, Kavunji, Poondi, Polur, Clavarai and Manjampatti.

While herds of Indian gaurs raid coffee and banana crops, wild boars destroy potato, carrot and beans overnight, said a Mannavanur farmer, T. Ramanathan, who lost carrot raised in three acres of land.

Farmers who raise carrot, beetroot, potato and peas are the worst affected. Wild boars raid farms just a few days before harvest time.

They rummage and eat the soaked pea seeds even before they sprout.

Wild animals spare only garlic crop due to its pungent smell and a burning aftertaste.

With no way to contain such nocturnal raids, 150 families in Mannavanur and nearby villages have abandoned their fields and gone to Tirupur to work in hosiery units in the last two years. Now, another 150 families in Vada Kavunji have decided to migrate for survival, said K. Vijay Raj, a vegetable grower who lost his potato crop raised in five acres.

“Forest department officials do not allow us to take preventive measures and they do not take efforts to contain wild animals within reserve forests. They insist on us to beat percussion instruments at night.

How can we make noise throughout the night? Moreover, raids are not conducted by a single wild animal.

They come in groups and destroy two to five acres in a single night,” he added. “Now, we spread saris and dhotis on our fence to scare them.”

Shrinking space, shortage of food and destruction of habitat within reserve forests force wild animals to move towards villages. With no predators, population of wild boars and Indian gaurs has increased in the recent years.

“It is a difficult but a sensitive problem to resolve,” said environmentalists. “Now, forests have been severely destroyed and degraded, habitat fragmented and diverse water and food sources have vanished. Recent forest fire, mostly man-made, at several places on Kodaikanal hill, have destroyed several habitats of wild animals, migratory path and food chain. Earlier, we destroyed its habitat, now wild animals destruct our livelihood,” they said.

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