Retaliatory measures taken by farmers to prevent wild animals from harming them or damaging their crops have taken a devastating toll on the wildlife population in the state.
Electric fences, barbed wires and poison are killing as many wild animals in Uttarakhand as poachers.
In the last two months alone, five animal deaths, either due to electrocution or poison, were reported from within the state. In Kotdwar, the decomposing bodies of three elephants were found on February 17, March 19 and March 27. Primary investigations indicated poison as the cause of these deaths.
On March 22, the carcass of a tigress was found in Terai Central forest division. The body has been partially decomposed and indicated signs of poisoning. On March 28, a leopard was found dead in Ramnagar range.
The fact that none of the body parts were missing ruled out poaching and strengthens the suspicion that the animals might have been killed by locals impacted by the wildlife.
Tito Joseph, programme manager of Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), a Delhi-based NGO working towards tiger conservation, said, “Wildlife in Uttarakhand is either targeted by poachers or by the locals. While poachers hunt animals to make money, locals kill them to protect their crops and children from animal attacks.”
He said they use banned pesticides, clutch wires and electric fences to prevent animals from entering their compounds. “And there have been several instances where animals had been caught up in these barricades and got killed.”
He said it was unfortunate that the forest department had not done anything substantial to end the man-animal conflict in the state.
Wildlife activist Dinesh Pandey alleged that though man-animal conflict was discussed in every wildlife board meetings, the forest department has not come up with any plan to end it.
Principal chief conservator of forest SS Sharma said he would take strong action against those responsible for the deaths. “I have demanded post mortem reports of all recent animal deaths. I have asked my officers to investigate them as well.”