Forest fires trigger man-animal conflict

Food that the animals consume are reduced to ashes forcing them to enter human habitations

April 19, 2018 11:49 pm | Updated 11:49 pm IST - ADILABAD

The forest floor littered with fallen wood apple fruits that are consumed by wild animals.

The forest floor littered with fallen wood apple fruits that are consumed by wild animals.

The picture of a sharp shooter taking aim to kill wild boars to control crop damage by animals, released recently by Adilabad Forest Department, made for a revolting visual for the conservationists. It went on to highlight man-animal conflict that has reached its peak in the State, especially in the hilly confines of the erstwhile Adilabad district.

To a large extent, the government is to be blamed for the pathetic state of affairs in forests, which would invariably have the wild animals loosing the battle. The successive governments have not only failed to check human encroachment of forest area, but have failed in controlling forest fires that reduce to ashes the food that animals find on the forest floor during summer.

The hardship that they face to get food in the forest is quite apparent what with whole and half-eaten fruits dotting the forest floor.

“A fire can eat away the immediate food that wild animals consume thereby disrupting the food chain, at least for the herbivores,” said a conservationist working in Bejjur forest. “Most of the animals that manage to escape the forest fire still face a threat to their life as they enter human habitations in search of food,” the wildlife professional said on condition of anonymity.

“For example, the sloth bear survives on fallen fruits like bael or Aegle marmelos during the lean summer months. A fire can destroy all the fallen fruits which will have the bear go hungry and force it to search for food in human habitations,” the conservationist explained.

The instance of humans being attacked by sloth bears occur with a terrifying regularity in forest habitations in the four districts that earlier constituted Adilabad. The situation is so bad that in 2013, the Adivasi residents of Narsapur (J) in Utnoor mandal of Adilabad resorted to relocating their village after a series of attacks by the bears.

“We were able to control about half the 675 forest fires that occurred in the forests of residual Adilabad district this season, thanks to satellite alerts,” said Adilabad District Forest Officer B. Prabhakar. “The situation is much better compared to previous years,” he observed.

Some forest officials also proffer the theory that fires help rejuvenate the flora by way of regeneration. “It can happen in the event of controlled fires in patches inside forests that are vegetatively undamaged,” the conservationist pointed out.

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