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An invisible defence against crop-raiding animals

Physical & biological barriers are incapable as deterrents

July 13, 2015 03:40 am | Updated 03:40 am IST - Bengaluru:

The wailing cry of an animal in distress reverberates through arid fields. At a distance, the instincts of wild boars kick in, and they scoot in the opposite direction having been warned of danger in the fields. By the lush forest of Western Ghats, an amplifier plays out noises of monkeys, keeping away these animals from cultivated lands.

With both physical and biological barriers turning out to be incapable in deterring animals from running over crops, bioacoustics — which uses the distress cries of wild animals — is the latest attempt at engineering a defence against crop-raiding animals.

Hyderabad-based agricultural scientist V. Vasudeva Rao cites success rates of 90 per cent in most cases. “Numerous calls of animals are taken and put in a sequence that sends out messages of warning…This in no way harms these animals,” said the scientist, coordinator of the All India Network Project on Agricultural Ornithology. It was funded by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.The resulting technology is in the process of obtaining a patent, Prof. Rao said.

Field trials have been carried out in a range of terrain and against a spectrum of wild animals. In the mountainous Kodagu district farmers were beset with the twin problems of troops of monkeys and herds of wild elephants.

“We have experimented with traditional methods such as bursting crackers, firing in the air, but this did not stop elephants from destroying the crops. Bioacoustics, however, has been an effective solution,” said K.P. Ganapathi, from Siddapur village in Kodagu. On the other side of the ghats at Kalladka in coastal Karnataka, amplifying monkey noises has seen crop damage reduce in the farm of Govinda Bhat.

In the arid fields of north Karnataka, the concept had seen raiding by wild boars come to a halt in the ten places tested, said Raju G. Teggali, Project Director, Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Kalaburagi. Calling it an “invisible shield” against animals, Anand Chinchapur from the Bengaluru-based company Grus Ecosciences — which is manufacturing the equipment — said calls for nearly 27 animals and birds had been developed.

Out of reach

While the nascent technology is taking off in places with high man-animal conflict, farmers and researchers admit that the cost of the equipment — pegged at nearly Rs. 25,000 — may be out of the most farmers’ reach of most farmers. “For marginal farmers, they find low cost physical barriers far more affordable than bioacoustics,” said Raju G. Teggali from Kalaburagi Krishi Vigyan Kendra, who is supervising its use in Kalaburagi district.

However, agricultural scientist V. Vasudeva Prof. Rao believes the patenting of the equipment and its consequent mass-manufacture by the Bengaluru-based company Grus Ecosciences will see the prices reduce drastically. “Once the trials are over, state governments will be asked to provide subsidy for this.”

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