This is a conservation story with a twist. For years, the 1,400-odd residents of Karopani in Dindori, Madhya Pradesh, went out of their way to nurture blackbucks in their village.
They risked their lives to ward off poachers and even gave up 500 acres of agricultural land so that the animals could thrive.
But the blackbucks thrived too well in Karopani: their numbers rose from about 50 in 2000 to more than 1,000 in 2008.
And then they turned against the villagers.
A pack of 1,000-odd blackbucks now roam the fields, destroying crops worth crores of rupees and ruining the livelihood of several farmers in Karopani and its neighbouring villages.
The villagers have asked the government for help.
Their demand: either relocate the animals to a safe place or declare the area to be protected under the relevant provision of the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002, and compensate the people for the land.
Residents of 10 other nearby villages have made a similar demand.
“We’ve been requesting the local administration and the forest department to acquire the land and compensate the farmers, but to no avail,” said Karopani sarpanch Kashi Maravi. “By doing so, they can ensure the protection of these wild animals also.”
Maravi said villagers had saved blackbucks from poachers many times, but now the government must try to protect the animals.
“Earlier, two or three crops were cultivated each year,” said Amma Das, who has had to abandoned 11 acres due to the threat from blackbucks. “But the animals have forced a change in the crop pattern.”
“For whom should we grow more than one crop,” asked another distraught farmer. “For the blackbucks?”