Kerala holds all-party meeting over frequent tiger incursions

Jan 17, 2023 12:16 AM IST

The meeting, which was attended by all major parties, including the CPI(M), Congress and BJP, decided there should be an increase in the compensation paid to the victims of such attacks.

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government on Monday held an all-party meeting to review the “recurring incursion of wild elephants in human habitats” amid a rise in tiger sightings and protests by farmers in Wayanad district.

As many as six tigers have been captured by authorities in the past one year in the north Kerala district, according to officials in the forest department. (HT)
As many as six tigers have been captured by authorities in the past one year in the north Kerala district, according to officials in the forest department. (HT)

The meeting, which was attended by all major parties, including the CPI(M), Congress and BJP, decided there should be an increase in the compensation paid to the victims of such attacks.

As many as six tigers have been captured by authorities in the past one year in the north Kerala district, according to officials in the forest department. While one died, the remaining were taken to a rescue centre.

On Saturday, a 10-year-old male tiger that killed a farmer was captured and later moved to an animal nursing centre. However, the relief was short-lived after a domestic animal was reportedly found killed by a big cat in the area later that day.

Forest minister A K Saseendran told reporters that the government has asked the Kerala Forest Research Institute to study “unusual sightings of tiger and recurring incursion of wild elephants in human habitats.”

“We have decided to create a master plan to check increasing attacks of wild animals. We will rope in experts and hear local people in detail. We will also increase the relief package for the affected people and ensure its speedy disposal. The recommendation of the all-party-meeting in this regard will be submitted before the cabinet meeting chaired by the chief minister,” he said.

According to people aware of the matter, the representatives of parties proposed the government hike the compensation for those killed in wildlife attacks to 10 lakh, besides a job to a family member.

Currently, a compensation of 5 lakh is given to the family of any person killed in such an attack. The injured are given a relief of 1 lakh.

The meeting came against the backdrop of intense protests by local residents over the increasing presence of the big cat and wild animals in human settlements.

“There has been a sharp rise in tiger sightings by field employees of the department who carry out surveys of areas falling under their jurisdiction,” a senior forest official said, seeking anonymity.

The official refused to divulge details like how many tigers were recently spotted in the district but said what is worrisome is that some of the spotted animals are not in the database.

The forest department is planning to approach the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to shift the five captured tigers to the zoos, the senior official said.

Forest experts, however, said that without proper studies, it is difficult to ascertain the rise in the tiger population in the district.

“Wild animals’ movement is based on resources. There are no boundaries for animals and they move around for resources. We need proper studies to pinpoint such issues,” wildlife expert Dr P S Esa said.

Esa also stressed the need to review measures to check animal incursions.

“Crores of rupees have been spent to check animal incursions (into human settlements) but there are no studies on the efficacy of these steps,” he said.

In a recent interview to a newspaper, chief veterinary surgeon of the forest department Dr Arun Zachariah said the total forest area in the district is 344 sq kms and there are 157 tigers in the region.

Protesting farmers sought a long-term solution to the menace. “We cannot live like this. Our movements are affected due to frequent animal attacks. Human lives also matter. Hundreds of farmers have left their profession and many suicides have also taken place,” P K Devsia, a farmer who suffered huge losses after an elephant herd raided his farm last week, said.

Farmers claimed seven people have died by suicide in the last two years in Wayanad.

According to data available with the forest department, 49 people were killed in wildlife attacks in the district in the last five years. Of this, two were killed by tigers.

The Kerala Independent Farmers Association called for proper and regular implementation of measures to check the menace.

“We need proper control measures to check multiplying numbers of wild animals and many countries in the world do it regularly. Similarly, harmful ones should be killed. Here, everyone talks about (saving) forests and wild animals but human lives near the forests are in peril,” the outfit’s chairman, Alex Ozhukayil, said.

Last week, the government announced its plan to approach the Supreme Court with a plea to restrict the number of wild animals in forests.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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