When the carrot becomes the stick for gaurs in the Nilgiris

A gaur feeds on some discarded carrots near a carrot cleaning machine in Ketti Palada.

A gaur feeds on some discarded carrots near a carrot cleaning machine in Ketti Palada.   | Photo Credit: Specialarrangements

The well-being of Indian gaurs, feasting on discarded carrots and vegetables in major agricultural areas of Ketti Palada and Muthorai Palada, is becoming a concern for forest department officials and conservationists.

The gaurs, which are being increasingly seen around human habitations, are known to be almost daily visitors to the carrot cleaning machines in Ketti Palada and Muthorai Palada, consuming the discarded vegetables that are rejected at the cleaning units in great quantities.

“This poses certain risks,” said a wildlife veterinarian who has conducted postmortems on deceased animals across the Nilgiris. “The Indian gaur is a ruminant. Animals consuming too much of vegetables such as carrots, cabbage and even rice discarded from homes, could lead to acidosis or the build-up of acid in the bloodstream,” he said.

N. Kannan, veterinary assistant surgeon, Ketti, who performs postmortems on deceased Indian gaur in the major agricultural belt of the Ketti valley, said that in 2020, he has come across the death of at least one Indian gaur and three domestic cattle due to acidosis, caused by the consumption of large amounts of carrots and other vegetables and items unsuited to the diets of wild and domestic ruminants.

“Of course, this does not mean that a gaur feeding on carrots will immediately die as a result, but if an animal overeats vegetables, then it is possible that they are more prone to acidosis and death over a period of time,” Dr. Kannan said.

District Forest Officer, Nilgiris division, D. Guruswamy, said that the death of an Indian gaur which feeds on discarded vegetables could be drawn out over many months. “Toxicity could be accumulative over a period of time, with not only discarded vegetables, but also consumption of other foods to which the gaur is not accustomed to, playing a role in their eventual deaths,” said Mr. Guruswamy, adding that the discarding of vegetable waste also led to the deaths of gaur in other ways. “For instance, as gaur are attracted to these foods, some of them fall into open wells which have been dug up around agricultural fields. This is another main reason for the high incidence of deaths of Indian gaur in these areas,” Mr. Guruswamy added.

The DFO said that the forest department has impressed up on the local bodies and the horticulture department to insist on proper disposal of waste from these vegetable cleaning units.

According to statistics from the forest department, 96 Indian gaurs have died near human settlements across the Nilgiris between 2018 and 2020, with deaths resulting from accidental falls into open wells and pits constituting to some of the most common causes of deaths of these animals in these regions.

Wildlife researchers, however, said that there was a need for a much broader understanding of the reasons that were causing Indian gaur to venture out of the forests in search of food. “There are observations from forest officials and researchers that consuming vegetables such as carrots could lead to the death of wild animals such as the gaur, but there have been no definitive studies proving this link,” said B. Navaneethan, a gaur researcher who has been studying the animals for almost a decade.

“What we should really be seeking to understand is why animals such as the gaur are venturing out from their primary habitats. “Is it due to lack of food in the forests or a boom in population? All of this needs to be studied, as right now, we have very little data about these factors. Once we understand this better, then, we can also try to study the diet of Indian gaur in these areas, whether there is a higher rate of death caused by their diet and so forth,” said Mr. Navaneethan.

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2020 6:34:03 PM |

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