On Sunday morning, chief minister Siddaramaiah had visitors from a village net to his birthplace Siddaramanahundi near Mysuru. What brought them to the CM’s doorstep was wild animals, including leopards, often straying into their fields from nearby forests.
Their experience is not isolated. A few days ago, an elephant calf fell into a lake n Begur, near Gundlupet, and died after villagers raised a din. Elsewhere in Chitradurga, a bear was beaten to death by angry villagers.
Even on Monday, an elephant that strayed out of the orest was found dead near Nanjangud of Mysuru.
Wildlife experts and forest officials say wild animals straying out of their natural habitats isn’t new. However, the cause of concern is that more such animals are finding themselves in conflict situations, and, consequently , paying with their lives.
According to wildlife activist Giridhar Kulkarni, animals could be straying out of their habitats for different reasons, which could also be region specific.
“But one thing is common: disturbance of their habitat.Of course, there are cases like big cats straying out of forests after being pushed out by younger tigers in territorial ights. But we are witnessing a large number of wild animals straying due to habitat oss and disturbance to their natural settings. Also, many forest patches in the state don’t provide the same kind of protection to animals like in sanctuaries and tiger reserves. Also, human activities in the wild force animals to move away,” he added.
Setting up of mini-hydel projects and other develop ment works on the Western Ghats have also resulted in animals straying.
Wildlife enthusiast Suresh M said the problem is more in forest patches of districts like Tumakuru and Chitradurga.These areas, according to him, don’t get the kind of as attention that the Western Ghats or tiger reserves get. “For instance, Tumakuru has a huge bear population but no government has paid attention to protecting their habitats. At least six cases of human-bear conflict have been reported from Tumakuru during the past six months,” said Suresh.
Suresh says the government should tie-up with NGOs and create awareness among villagers living on forest fringes on the need to conserve wildlife. “Awarding compensation, especially in cases of human deaths and crop loss, can go a long way in combating the situation,” he added.
Giridhar suggests the forest department hold talks with the government to connect forest patches with nearby protected areas so that animals have more space to move around, and don’t stray into human habitats.
A senior official from the wildlife division of the forest department said the department has initiated pro grammes to address the issue. “In places like Kodagu, we plan to buy land on forest fringes so that we can connect the corridors,” the official said.