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Burning bad

Range Forest Officer T. Sasikumar was attacked by a tiger at Kolavally, near Pulpally, in Wayanad district of Kerala on January 10. Only three months ago, he was attacked by another tiger at Anappara, near Pulpally. Both times, he escaped by the skin of his teeth.

He came under the first attack while leading a team of foresters to trace the tiger which had developed the habit of lifting domestic animals from the village and roaming inside its coffee plantations. He escaped only because he had worn a helmet affectionately given to him by a person in the village. The tiger was tranquillised and translocated to Neyyar in Thiruvananthapuram district.

Tigers and elephants are not uncommon to the villagers of Wayanad. The wild animals have established their territories in some villages in the past two decades. Now the human-animal conflict is at a peak. A tiger had devoured a tribal youth in the forests, leaving behind only the skeleton. This is a serious turning point in behavioural changes among tigers of Wayanad.

In the second attack on Mr. Sasikumar, the tiger pounced on him while patrolling in the village with a forest and police team, along with a panic-stricken mob of the locality, to scare away the animal which reportedly has come out of the Nagarahole National Park, crossing the Kabani river, to the Kerala side.

The veterinarians, the foresters, the police and the local crowd tried to tranquillise the animal, but it escaped to the adjacent Bandipur reserve. The danger looms large. This tiger might have tasted human blood, and only experts can predict the possible behavioural change. The tiger should hence be translocated from the village vicinities.

With their natural habitat under threat and avenues for food and water shrinking because of various factors, more wild animals are coming out of the forests and raiding crops. The farmers are paid compensation for damage to crops four times a year, though the raids happen more often. Pigs, porcupines and monkeys are damaging crops miles away from the forest belts. Many farmers are not even aware of the compensation procedures. Crop raids are a serious issue to be addressed by the governments.

Backward region

Wayanad in Kerala is one of the most backward districts in India. Brahmagiri, Nagarahole, Bandipur, Mudumalai, New Amarambalam, Silent Valley, Aralam, Kottiyoor and Malabar are the protected areas ringing the district along with the reserve forests of Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kannur districts. The authorities have recommended five elephant corridors to fill the gaps in the garland of reserves. This tract falling within the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is considered highly ecologically sensitive. On the one side, the foresters of Wayanad face the rage and fury of the local people and on the other, they are surprised by unexpected encounters from the wild. In this context, help is expected from the State government and the Union Environment and Forests Ministry.

An explosive situation can arise if the human-animal conflict crosses a limit. In Malappuram district, an elephant died after biting a pineapple with a crude bomb inside, a trap intended for wild pigs. The poor elephant died a gory death. Poisoning of tigers was reported long ago in Wayanad. People may resort to such illegal activities if steps are not taken to defuse the conflict.

The Chief Wildlife Wardens of Karnataka and Kerala may constitute a task force to mitigate the conflict and study the reasons for the behavioural changes among the wildlife in Wayanad and Kodagu.

(The writer is a former Deputy

Conservator of Forests, Kerala)

jayanilraj@gmail.com

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 2:03:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/burning-bad/article33642027.ece

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