Jackfruit trees to keep jumbos well-fed in forests

State to plant indigenous plants in forests to ensure wild animals’ food security

Published - May 23, 2022 03:52 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Ripe jackfruit is like a magnet for elephants which can smell the fruit from miles away. Wild elephants that reach human habitations in search of food often raid jackfruit trees, escalating the human-animal conflict in forest buffer zones. Now, the new eco-restoration policy unveiled by the State government envisages planting jackfruit trees, along with other fruit trees, inside the forest to ensure food security for wild animals.

The policy document envisages planting suitable indigenous plants (for eg: wild mango, wild gooseberry, and wild jackfruit) in the forest. A senior Forest officer said the fruit trees planted inside the forest can dissuade wild animals such as elephants and monkeys from entering the human habitations and farmlands in search of food. There is already a project to replace exotic monoculture plantations such as eucalyptus, acacia and wattle, which are unsuitable to the environment, with indigenous species. So, a part of these areas and other selected sites can be used for planting fruit trees inside the forest, said the officer.

Recently, a study conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, and Periyar Tiger Conservation Foundation to identify the reasons behind the rising human-animal conflict in the State, found that reduced availability of fodder in forests has been forcing animals to foray into settlements and farmlands. Paucity of fodder was attributed to the spread of invasive plants, changing crop patterns in farmlands near the forests, and increase in farmland near forest fringes.

Note of dissent

However, the new policy decision has also not gone well with a section of conservationists in the State. P.S. Easa, wildlife expert and former director of Kerala Forest Research Institute said “eco-restoration should be assisting natural regeneration of an ecosystem. I don’t know whether these seasonal fruit trees could ensure food security in the forest. Ensuring natural food through appropriate protection would have been better,” said Mr. Easa.

On whether the move could address human-animal conflict, a senior Forest officer said, “There need not be a big increase in such conflicts. Instead, it could be that every minor incident related to human-animal conflict is being reported now,” he said.

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