On the prowl: Stuffed tigers! Tamil Nadu’s jumbo-hit farmers find novel fix (India)


Senthil Kumaran,Times of India

Date Published
KRISHNAGIRI: Frustrated by marauding herds of elephants plundering their crops and worried for their safety, farmers on the border of the Sanamavu reserve forest have struck upon a singular solution to their problem. They’ve decided to use an old foe of the Indian elephant, the tiger -or replicas of them, anyway -to frighten the jumbos away. 
Around 50 farmers in the area placed in their fields, at vantage positions where elephants can’t miss them, large stuffed tiger dolls that they purchased in Bangalore. They’ve also set up speakers on which they will play recorded growls and roars of the big cat. Tigers usually do not mess with elephants and it’s unlikely that canny wild elephants will be taken in by the trick, given that some of the dolls have been placed in ridiculously impossible positions -including one reclining on the stump of a coconut tree, two feet of its rear floating in midair -but the farmers have run out of options. 
“Jumbos last year destroyed ragi, paddy and vegetable crops in many fields near Soolagiri, Anchetty , Denkanikottai, Udedurgam and Uthanapalli, causing huge losses to farmers,” said M R Sivasami, president of farmers’ association Tamilaga Vivasayigal Sangam. More than 100 elephants from Bannerghatta Reserve Forest in Karnataka make the journey every year to Sanamavu Reserve Forest, around 10km west of Hosur town. 
Foresters say as many as 88 elephants have entered the forest this year, including a large herd that came on the night of October 27. Foresters in February had to drive a herd of 45 wild jumbos from Sanamavu Reserve Forest back to Denkanikottai Reserve Forest, 8km away. The rampaging animals caused so much damage that the government gave each farmer a compensation of Rs10 lakh. More than 300 people from villages in the area blocked the highway between Hosur and Royakottai nonetheless, demanding that the authorities find a permanent solution to the elephant problem. 
Some farmers gave up on foresters and decided to find a fix themselves. “We usually burst fireworks and light fireballs when jumbos enter our fields,” K Munirajappa, a farmer from Beerjeppalli village, told TOI. “A spark flashed in my mind when I overheard a forester tell a farmer that tigers would scare away elephants.” He said he went to Bengaluru the next day and bought four dolls for Rs 3,000. 
“When they saw the tiger dolls I bought, many other farmers went and got themselves the same kind of dolls.” The farmers have set up ‘machaans’ from where they plan to monitor elephant herds that stray into their fields so they can play the tiger growls when they are within earshot. 
“If it works, I’ll purchase more dolls to save my crops,” P S Dhimmarayappa, another farmer, said.