Society for Conservation of Nature

Refugees in their own home


(Published in Tuesday 29 May 2018)

Human-animal conflict is increasing day by day in the areas where there are good forests that support wild animals and in the areas which are contiguous to such forests. Many measures are being taken by the Government as well as by the different interested groups to mitigate the human-animal conflict. Since the traditional methods are not successful, some new and scientific methods have been devised to reduce this ever increasing problem with the idea of conserving the wildlife by giving priority for human life and other farm crops. When crop raiding becomes a major problem in areas where agricultural crops have been raised adjoining the forest areas, the farmers are being advised not to cultivate crops like sugar cane, paddy, pine apple, banana, etc. in order to avoid the animals visiting those fields as the wild animals are fond of these palatable crops.

When such is the case, in the heart of Kanniyakumari Wildlife Sanctuary, palatable crops like pine apple, banana and tapioca are being cultivated in the young rubber plantations that have been raised by the Arasu Rubber Corporation (ARC) and leased out to private contractors for a few years (3 years) in order to have additional income. While discussed, the authorities concerned express their view that the practice of leasing out the young rubber areas has been only to avoid the growth of unnecessary weeds, the intercrop varieties are as suggested by the Rubber Research Institute of India, a Government of India Institution and intercropping is carried out after receiving the approval from the State Forest Department with adequate security measures like solar power fencing and elephant proof trenches. Whatever may be reason behind this leasing out the forest area to private contractors, the ultimate result is posing nuisance and hardship to the wild animals in their own habitat. This is like making an ethnic group as refugees in their own soil.

As per the Sastri-Srimao pact, with the idea of rehabilitating the Sri Lankan Tamils who came to India as refugees, about 5000 hectares of virgin forests were converted into rubber plantations in 1960. The refugees also were rehabilitated as workers in the plantations as it was done in the Tamil Nadu Tea Plantation Corporation (TANTEA) in the Nilgiris district. But the malady is making the wildlife homeless in their own habitat, by allowing intruders as contractors to raise palatable crops which attract the animals and thereby paving way for human-animal conflict. Naturally the contractors are in the habit of protecting their crops from the wild animals by using crackers and throwing lighted coconut shells packed with ash and dipped in kerosene oil. When such kind of practice is followed, at times the animals especially the elephants may get injured and the pachyderms in turn may become more aggressive leading to human death also.

Presently there are five divisions namely Keeriparai, Manalodai, Kodayar, Mylar and Chithar in ARC. In Keeriparai and Manalodai rubber divisions, nearly 1000 hectares have been leased out to private contractors for raising pine apple, banana and tapioca. These are the areas where animals like elephants, Indian bison, sambar (Kada Maan), barking deer (Kelai Aadu), mouse deer (Sarugu Maan), sloth bear, wild boar, porcupine, etc. are found in plenty. The fight between the lessees of ARC and the wild animals lead to human-wildlife conflict.