More human-animal conflicts likely

Soaring mercury levels may trigger more incidents of human-animal conflicts, it is feared.

Forest fires and the reduced availability of fodder and drinking water may force wild animals out of their territories. They may venture into human habitations in search of water and food, according to wildlife authorities.

E.A. Jayson, head of the Wildlife Division of the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Thrissur, said that conflicts in each area would be influenced by a host of local factors such as availability of food and water and proximity to forest area.

A recent meeting of the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority had cautioned the State Forest Department against the possibility of human-animal conflicts increasing significantly during drought months. The Forest Department was asked to ensure sufficient water for animals in sanctuaries, said a member of the authority.

Animals may come in search of drinking water into human habitations from forest areas where there are no reservoirs. Wayanad was one such district, said Dr. Jayson.

Monitoring needed

Conflicts are unlikely in Parambikulam, Vazhachal, Idukki, and Peppara areas where there are reservoirs. Herds of elephants would move to the reservoirs during the dry spell. However, the Forest Department needed to monitor the vulnerable areas and take adequate measures to address the issue. Priority should be given to the drinking water needs of animals, he said.

R. Sugathan, a wildlife expert, said that crop raids by elephants and wild boar might increase in the Thattekad area of Malayattur Forest division in Ernakulam district. Animals raid farmlands in search of food when grasslands and shrubs dry up. Water is available here in the lake near the sanctuary, Mr. Sugathan said.

Animals invade the farmlands where banana, pineapple, and tubers are cultivated. It is estimated that there are around 40 elephants in the sanctuary area. Besides elephants, sambars too come out searching for food, said Mr. Sugathan, who is associated with the sanctuary.

V. Gopinath, Chief Wildlife Warden, Kerala, said that check-dams were being constructed in the interiors of forest to provide drinking water to animals.

They may reach the water sources when forest dries up. Though one can generally state that there is the possibility of human-animal conflicts shooting up during summer months, there is nothing alarming in Kerala forests, he said.

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