A staggering task

constant threat: Elephants in BRT-Bandipur-Nagarahole belt are prone to diseases spread by domestic cattle. — Photo: M.A. SRIRAM

constant threat: Elephants in BRT-Bandipur-Nagarahole belt are prone to diseases spread by domestic cattle. — Photo: M.A. SRIRAM  

As an ad hoc measure which is also a preventive step, a prolonged and sustained campaign of vaccination and inoculation of domestic cattle has been launched around wildlife sanctuaries, according to the Deputy Conservator of Forests in Bandipur, Hanumanthappa. It's an enormous challenge to cover the entire cattle population around sanctuaries for vaccination as studies conducted by wildlife biologists including M.D. Madhusudhan of Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, indicate that there are not less than 1.5 lakh bovines around Bandipur alone.

Though no accurate statistics are available about BRT and Nagarahole, it is safe to assume that the total number of bovines with free access to the protected areas for grazing could be in the region of three lakh to four lakh.

Extra pressures

The Forest Department which has analysed the problem specific to Bandipur says in a report that “Though no human settlement exists inside Bandipur National Park, nearly 150 villages and 100,000 domestic livestock abut the tiger reserve. These village settlements dotting along the northern park boundary running from west to east exert constant pressure on the forest resources inside Bandipur NP. Growing human populations and ever-increasing aspirations of people living at the edges of Bandipur have continually exerted human-induced extractive pressures on the forest and wildlife biomass of Bandipur.” As a result of frequent intrusion of domestic cattle into the forests, the region has a recorded history of epidemics that have wiped out large population of wildlife.

Rinderpest and foot-and-mouth disease killed a large number of gaurs in the 1960s while foot rot disease was noticed in the 1990s.An outbreak of anthrax was reported in 1999. In view of the outbreak of the diseases that spells ruin to the wild animals, the Forest Department has tried to create an immunity belt around the forests by taking up mass inoculation programme as suggested earlier. In addition, a mass awareness programme by way of distribution of pamphlets about diseases, their symptoms and prophylactic control measures are made available to the farmers. Screening of films about dairy farming, hybrid grasses, infectious diseases and their control and about park wildlife are shown to local farmers to bring awareness among them. Distribution of free veterinary medicines to the owners of affected cattle, and development of gomal lands for the benefit of the local community are other measures that have been taken up and implemented over the years. But even a single bovine infected with the disease can spread havoc in the jungles and hence it is a continuous and never-ending endeavour to keep a tab on the health of the cattle and the wildlife for the Forest Department staff as also conservationists.


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