Grazing affecting reserve forests

Elephants robbed of their fodder, leading to human-animal conflict

Grazing affecting reserve forests

A group of villagers from Hangala Hobli from Chamarajanagar district had huddled in front of Conservator of Forests (CF) and Director of Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BRT), Kantharaju H C’s office recently. They were there to seek permission from CF to allow livestock to graze inside the Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

“Ooralli Mevilla (There is no fodder in our village),” said Naveen, a resident of Baragi village, which shares its borders with the reserve forest. Earlier, Forest department officials used to allow the cattle to graze in the rainy season. Recently, they have not been so obliging, the delegation of the villagers said.

Kantharaju, who addressed the villagers said that gates of the Reserve would be opened during the first week of July for the cattle to graze.

According to the villagers, there are about 2,000 cattle in Baragi village, one of the many villages in Hangala Hobli. Demands to allow livestock to graze comes from almost all villages near the limits of the reserve, said Kantharaju.

Allowing the cattle to graze, according to Rajkumar D of Wildlife Conservation Foundation, results in a cascading effect. Following a dry spell in summer, grass, which constitutes a large part of elephants’ diet, starts growing.

“Allowing the bovines to graze in regions where elephants feed robs the elephants of their food, forcing them to enter sugarcane and other fields, resulting in crop loss for farmers,” he said.

Elephants are also choosy in their diet. They choose grass which have grown a couple of feet above the ground, as they can grip and pull with their trunks.

One cow, on an average, consumes about 16 kg of grass per day. As noted earlier, there are 2,000 cattle in Baragi village alone.

 Allowing the cattle to graze during a period of the year inside the reserve, will eventually result in “human-animal” conflict.

Small scale subsistence livestock farming is however permitted for local communities living at the edge of the forest, said Kantharaju. The subsistence is a lifeline for farmers in the region, who are unable to find fodder, as Chamarajanagar district continues to be one of the most water starved districts of the State.

But the resultant cascading effect, which rob elephants of their primary diet forcing them into plantations and farms to satiate their voracious appetite is yet to be appreciated fully in villages around the reserve.

As a result, steps to solve the apparent “human-animal” conflict leaves a lot to be desired.

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