Madhya Pradesh forest department’s plan to catch, castrate Nilgai flops

The menace of wild Neelgais damaging crops in vast tracts on Malwa region had prompted the forest department to opt for castrating bluebulls.
Herd of Nilgais on a hot summer day at Chappar Chiri in SAS nagar.(HT File Photo)
Herd of Nilgais on a hot summer day at Chappar Chiri in SAS nagar.(HT File Photo)
Updated on May 09, 2018 03:19 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Bhopal | ByPunya Priya Mitra

The Madhya Pradesh forest department has put on hold an ambitious plan to use Pardi tribals to catch and castrate Nilgais (blue bulls) to control their population in the wild after its spectacular failure.

The menace of wild Nilgais damaging crops in vast tracts in Malwa region had prompted the forest department to devise this plan. They had roped in Pardi tribals because of their reported skills in tracking and trapping animals in the wild. A workshop was held in Ujjain a couple of months back and 40 Pardi tribals were included in the team to catch the Nilgais. The plan was to capture over 1000 animals.

But over the last month, several attempts by forest department officials in various spots in Ujjain division to trap Nilgais with nets failed.

In one case, the Pardis did manage to trap three Nilgais, but these males which can weigh up to 250 kg, were so powerful that they tore the net and escaped before the Pardis and the forest team could reach the site. In another case, they managed to catch a female, which was of no use. In most of the cases, the Nilgais managed to evade the traps laid by the Pardis.

Chief conservator of forest (CCF) B S Annigeri conceded that their attempts to trap the Nilgais with nets had failed. “The nets that we used were not strong enough and they managed to escape,” he said referring to the three animals which tore the net to escape.

Annigeri said that the time too was not right. “Most of the crop has been cut and it is open fields and the Nilgais who prefer to stay on top of hillocks were able to spot the team and run away. So we have put the project on hold and we may re-launch it when there is more cover in the open,” he said.

However a wildlife expert, who did not want to be named, said the project was flawed from the beginning. “The Pardis might be expert in tracking and trapping birds and animals in the wild, but in most cases they are small animals like hare, small deer etc. They don’t have experience in handling big animals.”

But he also conceded that that it was better to have tried something new rather than not doing anything at all.

This is not the first time that the attempts have been made to catch wild Nilgais and relocate them to sanctuaries. But the earlier exercise had proved very expensive and was widely criticized.

In December 2016 the forest department caught 27 Nilgais in the Mandsaur district. The animals were herded with the help of horses and in one case a helicopter into a funnel shaped enclosure and onto a truck and transported to the Gandhi Sagar sanctuary.

However, the exercise cost the government nearly 42 lakhs, according to a written reply given by the forest minister Gauri Shankar Shejwar in the Assembly.

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, has certain provisions which allow the Centre to move wild animals from Schedule II, III and IV category to the Schedule V category of the Act (vermin) for a certain period.

Those animals that damage crop, kill livestock or are a threat to people by spreading diseases can be declared vermin, paving the way for their culling for a limited period. However, Madhya Pradesh, unlike Bihar has decided not to go in for culling and instead have chosen to try various methods to capture these animals and control their population.

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