Viable solution needed to curb electrocution of tigers

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Nov 2017 08:38:49


By Ramesh Marulkar,

Tigers are being unnecessarily falling prey to electrocution resorted to by farmers in jungle areas in order to save their crops from damages by blue bulls and wild boars. Tigers chasing these wild animals for food get victimised by coming in contact with live electric wires laid at the fencing of an agriculture field.

The electrocution cases are now-a-days are increasing because farmers cannot tolerate heavy losses caused by animals to their crops that have reached to harvesting stage. They have to remain vigilant after evening throughout the night to ensure that no wild animals enter in the farm. Probably, this is a difficult job for them and hence they find easy way to protect their crops by laying live wires to the fencing. Of course, their intention is not to kill flagship species like tiger but unfortunately it is happening. Even cases of killing persons occurred due to electrocution method in Nagpur district. Of course, the common man would never support to a farmer indulging in electrocution because it is crime.

Now, the situation of tigers/tigresses electrocution has become alarming with as many as six big cats died due to it from November last year to this November month in Vidarbha region. As per the official record, the tigers/tigresses getting electrocuted are at Dhanapur village in Kothari Forest Range in Chandrapur district, Maharkund village just outside Pench Tiger Reserve, Khapa range, Mangli in Nagbhir range, Sindivihiri in Karanja-Ghatge range, Marodi in Chaprala Wildlife Sanctuary in Chamorshi tehsil of Gadchiroli district and the latest case at Ambdi-Begedi village in Chimur range in Brahmapuri Forest Division.

Taking a serious note of the increasing cases of electrocution in this region, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has called a meeting on November 14 in which the Chief Wildlife Warden, Maharashtra, and senior officers concerned in different areas, where crime has taken place, would participate in it. The meeting will give stress on monitoring status and measures taken for checking electrocution cases.

It may be mentioned here that Debabrata Swain, then IGF (Nagpur) and now Member-Secretary of NTCA, Delhi, had convened a meeting of the senior forest officers and MSEDCL and other concerned authorities soon after electrocution of a tigress and two sambars in Maharkund in Khapa range on January 13 to discuss this serious issue. It was decided in the meeting to install alarming system on experimental basis in Nagpur Forest Division to know immediately about any electrocution of animal. One forest probationer and engineer from Balaghat has developed this device but it is in limited production. Therefore, Forest Department has not been able to procure the device so far.
The department promoted erecting of solar fencing around the farm but it did not succeed because of the ground strip below the bottom most ring of wire had to be regularly cleaned and kept grass free to prevent short circuit of solar energy. Farmers were given the responsibility but due to one or the other reason they could not maintain the grass cutting schedule.

Lomesh Dangore, a progressive farmer from Paradsinga, says solar fencing is a costly affair as it involves a cost of Rs 40,000 per acre. The government gives subsidy to ST/SC/VJNT farmers around jungle in Chandrapur and Gadchiroli districts but the farmers in this village have not received this facility, despite their fields are located adjoining jungle.

Farmers do not come forward for installing solar fencing because of high cost. Around 250 farmers preferred not to cultivate any crop out of fear that blue bulls and wild boars would finish the crops. Instead, they undertake some daily-wage jobs to earn livelihood and dispel tension. Moreover, they also do not get remunerative prices to their agricultural commodity and hence avoid farming.

If solar fencing cannot be recommended in wildlife corridors then in such places crop variation or agro-forestry should be taken up as a viable solution, meaning that recommending crops that cannot be damaged by wild animals. In agro-forestry, growing bamboo can be a good option as it is not affected by browsing, vagaries of nature, untimely or deficit rain and each acre gives assured yield for 35/40 years once the plantation is taken care for initial three years. As per rough estimates, if a farmer plants 330 bamboo seedlings in an acre area then he would be able to get from Rs one lakh to Rs eight lakh from fourth year onwards, that too without any conversion process.

Sincere efforts if made jointly by Forest Department, MSEDCL and other agencies can bring down the graph of electrocution cases.