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Sloth bear, leopard attacks scare daylights out of farmers in 3 districts of Karnataka

Experts say drought might be one of the triggering points for the spike in wild animal attacks on humans this year.
Last Updated : 13 May 2024, 23:07 IST
Last Updated : 13 May 2024, 23:07 IST

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Koppal: Several villages in Koppal, Vijayanagar and Ballari districts are witnessing a spike in sloth bear and leopard attacks on humans, cattle and crops.

Last month, two people were killed in sloth bear attacks in Koppal, while leopards have been frequently lifting cattle in the three
districts. 

The frequent visits of these wild animals to the fields has instilled fear among the farmers, who avoid going to their fields for the next 4-5 days, resulting in further damage to their
crops.

“Sloth bears have been damaging drip irrigation pipelines to drink water. They often take shelter in banana and papaya plantations. When farmers visit their fields to harvest or provide water to fields, they are attacked,” says Ramalinga Bantu, a papaya farmer near Godekote village in Ballari’s Kudligi taluk.

Drought effect

Experts say drought might be one of the triggering points for the spike in wild animal attacks on humans this year.

The degradation of habitat, especially due to unregulated stone quarries, m-sand manufacturing units, non-availability of food and water in protected areas, encroachment of forest areas and lack of human resources in forest department are said to be other reasons.

Wildlife expert Samad Kottur says stone quarrying is one of the major reasons for the increase in human-animal conflict in the region.

“The rocky hills in the region have several natural caves. The wild animals have been in coexistence with humans for times immemorial. However, with illegal stone quarrying, sand mining and other works taking place, animals are forced to venture out,” he says.

The advent of borewells has also increased human-animal conflict in the region. With more farmers cultivating commercial and horticultural crops using borewell water, sloth bears are reported to travel nearly 25-30 km in search of ‘easy and tasty’ food and water. 

Residents of affected areas say more than human deaths, it is the injuries caused by sloth bears that go underreported.

Fruit cultivation

The region, which is known for cultivating fruits, witnesses large-scale crop loss of watermelon, banana, pomegranate, musk-melon, papaya, jowar, sunflower among others.

Gundappa Kunkadi, a resident of Chilakamukhi in Koppal district who was attacked by a sloth bear a couple of years ago, says venturing out after sunset or before sunrise has become very difficult.

While three persons lost their lives in the village over the last five years, several others sustained injuries.

‘Karadigudda’, a hillock near Chilakamukhi, is believed to be home for eight adult sloth bears. Plain and barren lands next to these hills have now been converted into mango orchards and watermelon fields.

Third bear sanctuary

There has been a demand to declare ‘Karadigudda’ as the state’s third sloth bear sanctuary (Daroji and Gudekote in Ballari are the other two). However, due to lack of human resources in forest department, it has been put on the backburner. Koppal, which has seven taluks has only 3 range forest officials (sanctioned posts seven), one assistant conservator of forests (sanctioned posts three) and one deputy conservator of forests (DCF).

A decrease in the fruit-bearing plants (native plants) and prey base within the protected areas is forcing animals to raid crops and prey on cattle in human habitats.

“Crop raids and cattle lifting are a matter of concern. Wild animals venture into human habitation in search of easy food,” says Arsalan, DCF, Vijayanagara. 

He, however, refutes the charge that large-scale illegal stone quarrying is taking place within the eco-sensitive zones of Daroji and Gudekote sanctuaries.

Hillocks as natural ‘maternity wards’

Experts and forest department officials believe that the hillocks with several natural caves and crannies have become ‘maternity wards’ for sloth bears leopards wolves hyenas and foxes. However with unregulated stone mining taking place in these hills the animals are forced to leave their ‘safe heavens’ in search of new homes food and water.

“Wild animals are not the menace. We have failed to protect the ‘maternity ward’ of these animals. These lands were considered a safe cradle for them. Now the habitat has been destroyed” says Koppal DCF Chandranna.

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Published 13 May 2024, 23:07 IST

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