India KOCHI: The man-animal conflict could get worse this year as the rivulets and water bodies in the forests are fast drying up forcing the animals to come out in search of water.
Apprehending a scenario that could trigger a panic in forest-fringe areas and buffer zones in Thekkady , Parambikulam and Wayanad, the state government has initiated a multi-pronged strategy to address the situation within the forests itself.
“The main challenge was addressing the drying up of water bodies within the forests. Using our resources, we have mapped all the points where animals flock to drink water inside the forests. We dug up water holes and also made arrangement to pump out water from flowing rivers into these points so that animals continue to get water,” said environment secretary P Mara Pandian. He said that the forest department began the remedial measures a couple of months ago after the Indian meteorological department declared south west monsoon as deficient.
Waterholes have also been been dug in several places to collect rainwater in case it rains,” Pandian said.
To prevent man-animal conflict, vigil committees have been formed with involvement of locals. Night patrolling by locals with the help of tribal groups have also been proposed.”We are activating SMS alert networks to send out warnings on movement of wild elephant herds,” environment secretary said.
The Centre has also sounded warnings regarding forest fires, which could wipe off entire wildlife. “Fire control rooms have been activated and patrolling intensified to manage any untoward incident. A crisis management cell will also become active. A check list will be made to tackle forest fires and wildlife crimes and the first status report will be submitted to the government by Saturday ,” said P K Kesavan, additional principal chief conservator of forests (vigilance & forest intelligence).
Following the reports of poaching and killing of elephants by poachers, per manent antipoaching camps and watch towers have been set up at strate gic points inside sanctuaries.Treetop machans (temporary watch towers) have been set up and forest guards and watchers deployed.
However, NGOs allege that poaching is going on unchecked because the forest protection staff do not have the wherewithal to deal with forest mafia. “Even though the state forest department had issued a circular in 2015 stipulating that when ever a dead body of any animal of protected species is identified inside the forest, the inquest and post-mortem examination must be conducted in the presence of the CCF,” said V K Venkitachalam, secretary, Heritage Animal Task Force (HATF).
He said that the inci dents became known when a poacher came forward on his own to declare that he had knowledge of killing of 22 wild tuskers during 2011 to 2013. Forests in Thattekkad, Idamala yar, Pooyamkutty , Athi rappilly and Vazhachal have plenty of water resources which attract wild elephants during all the months of the year.
“During the last 25 days of 2016, five dead bod ies of elephants were found inside the Athi rappilly and Vazhachal areas. The officials informed the public that two of them died after being attacked by other elephants and the re maining three died of malnu trition. In all these cases, the viscera was not sent to Centre for Cellular and Molecular Bi ology (CCMB), which is the only certified agency for ani mal forensic reports. Unoffi cial figures put total number of wild elephant deaths at 285,” he alleged.