Man animal conflict

Human-Animal Conflict

Human-Animal Conflict 
-Ajay Gadikar

In my recent article on Indianwildllife club I had shared some of my observations regarding the increasing menace of the Rhesus Macaques (Red Faced Monkey) in the hill station Pachmarhi, which is also a part of the larger Pachmarhi biosphere reserve. In this month’s article I will try to bring attention of the readers to another one in the series of the conflict - of man with animals.

The Malwa plateau is one of the most fertile areas in India, which produces many metric tons of agricultural produce every year. Since the last decade or so, people living in these areas are engaged in a constant conflict with an animal living in the nearby forests of these areas. This conflict is with the animal known as bluebull or commonly known as Nilgai or   Rojda in Malwa.  With an almost exponential growth in its population, this antelope has become a major threat to the farmers.  It raids their fields and eats and damages their crops.  Nilgai have been considered a pest in several north Indian states, as they ravage crop fields and cause considerable damage.  Many states had declared the nilgai as vermin.

With the absence of a natural predator in the area, their numbers are increasing at an alarming rate.  This animal is protected under the Forest law and any harm to this animal is a punishable offence.  All these reasons, put together, are responsible for the enormous rise in the bluebull population in the areas they inhabit and now they have become a serious threat to the crops.  The bluebull menace has made them enemies of the farmers, the farmers in the area have even changed their crop patterns.  Now the farmers have turned to cultivating soya bean instead of indigenous crops like pulses; as the soya bean is a crop least damaged by this animal.

With India’s burgeoning population, there is constant pressure on land for farming, and farmers encroach upon forest land for cultivation which eventually diminishes the herbivore habitat in which they feed.  Forestland will continue to be turned into human habitat, and the bluebull will have nowhere to go but to go into fields to graze.

With growing demands from the villagers for shifting the animal, the Madhya Pradesh forest department decided to shift some of the animals to another location. This problem is being faced by many states and some of them have chosen to cull the animals.  But the MP forest department has decided to shift the animals from the areas where they are found in abundance.

As a pilot project, the Ujjain forest circle was chosen and given a task to shift the animals from the worst affected Mandsaur district to the nearby Gandhi Sagar wildlife sanctuary.  As a Volunteer in the operation and a member of NGO, I also got a chance to understand the translocation process of the Bluebull.

A team was formed with senior forest experts, who had the experience of a similar kind, of successful translocation activities elsewhere. The MP forest department had successfully translocated the Barasingha (Hard ground swamp deer) from the Kanha Tiger Reserve to Satpura Tiger Reserve and had also shifted the Indian Gaur from the Kanha Tiger Reserve to Bandhavgarh Tiger Resort in the last three years.  Cheetals (Spotted Deer) had also been shifted from Van Vihar to various locations.

A BlueBull Family
The team decided to use the Boma technique, widely used in Africa, for the mass capture of the bluebulls from the area. In the boma technique, a temporary enclosure is created in the vicinity of the bluebull population. The animals are then lured to enter the enclosure and are kept there for a few days. Later, they are transported to the area where it has been decided to leave them.

A helicopter being used to drive the Bluebulls

In a major exercise, that involved the forest staff and a large number of locals, this project was carried out successfully and the animals were safely captured and shifted to the nearby Gandhi Sagar Sanctuary.  The help of horse riders was sought to drive the animals towards the boma and first time ever a helicopter was used to help drive the bluebulls towards the designated enclosure.
The successful translocation of some animals was done in December 2016.  Later, a project to shift, about 1000 of these animals, has been planned by the M.P. Forest Department.

Bluebulls successfully diverted inside the Boma

I find this a better solution than culling of these animals. This grave situation has been created by us, the human beings, and it is for us to find an amicable solution. So that both, man and animal can live in harmony. 

(Ajay Gadikar is a naturalist from Indore)

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