Today's Paper

Connection seen between cattle grazing and carnivore attacks

Increase in the number of carnivores stalking domestic cattle in Mysuru region brings to the fore the imperatives of curbing illegal cattle grazing that goes on inside the national parks and wildlife reserves.

For, experts see a correlation between cattle grazing and carnivores straying into human landscape in search of prey.

Though grazing cattle inside national parks and wildlife sanctuaries is banned, the local residents on the fringes of Bandipur and Nagarahole, as also other places, violate it with impunity. In a scenario of intense competition for prey and territory coupled with increase in the population density of carnivores like tigers and leopards — as at Bandipur and Nagarahole — the weak and the old animals tend to get ejected from the core areas.

Wildlife activist D. Rajkumar of Wildlife Conservation Foundation explained that such animals are too weak to hunt and hence stalk domestic cattle grazing inside the forests abutting the periphery or the buffer zone. The forest regions where domestic cattle graze also tend to be degraded bereft of food for other herbivore animals, thus depleting the prey base in the area. Hence, carnivores like tigers and leopards are forced to stalk on domestic animals, escalating the conflict.

Since cattle are easy kill and soft meat, the carnivores ejected out of their territory tend to get habituated to domestic cattle. Over a period of time the carnivore’s dietary preference could also change and it will begin to stalk and prey on cattle, straying into human landscape which will escalate the man-animal conflict, he added.

There is not a single case of a tiger or a leopard which has attacked a human being before it had attacked or killed a few heads of cattle, said Mr. Rajkumar.

While the Forest Department claims that cattle grazing has stopped to a large extent, wildlife activists point out that it is still prevalent in certain areas, and human-animal conflict, involving carnivores, are the highest in areas where cattle grazing is also relatively high.

The spate of tiger attacks reported last year from villages around Bandipur were also areas where cattle grazing is high.

Hence, Mr. Rajkumar has urged the Forest Department to keep a track of cattle-kills that takes place inside the forests.