Monday, September 09, 2013

Forest department plans drive against live wire fences

Forest department plans drive against live wire fences
The Times of India

August 6: Five people arrested for electrocution of lion from a village in Visavadar.

August 10: Mavji Patodia arrested for electrocution of a neelgai in Visavadar.

August 13: Leopard electrocuted in Khodidara village in Junagadh when it jumped from a tree to make a kill and came in contact with live wire.

September 4: A neelgai died of electrocution in Chadawad village in Junagadh district.

AHMEDABAD: With the state, particularly the Saurashtra region, receiving heavy rainfall, the area under cultivation has increased considerably. This has not only raised hopes of a bumper crop but has also raised fears of man-animal conflict.

Officials of the forest department have launched a drive in Saurashtra region to create awareness among farmers about the dangers of using live wire fencing to keep standing crops safe from wild animals. The department has asked its teams to carry out intensive search operations and take action against farmers whose fields are found fenced with live wire.

Another officer said the department has asked the local electricity company to monitor power consumption in the area. The company has been asked to inform the forest department if it notices an unusual rise in power consumption in a particular area and the two would then together carry out combing operations, the officer said.

In the recent four incidents, a lion, two neelgais and a leopard were electrocuted when they came in contact with live wire illegally installed by the farmers to keep their crops safe from wild animals. When such wires kill animals, the farmers or the owners of the land dump the animal carcasses in nearby fields or waste land to show their deaths as 'accidents'.

The officials said that it was for this reason that the carcass of the lion electrocuted near a village in Visavadar on August 5 was found in a nearby river. "If the officials had not investigated the incident minutely, they would not have recovered the lion's hair from the field," said a senior forest department officer.

The officials later found live wire fencing at a nearby field during investigation. Local farmers had fenced their fields with the help of barbed wires that was also electrified. This practice is not new in the region. Whenever there is good rain, farmers resort to such illegal methods to protect their crops.

Experts say that the man-animal conflict is bound to increase as the population of neelgai and wild bore in the region has gone up, and increased fears that they would ruin standing crops. In response, farmers are bound to adopt electrified wires or similar illegal methods which will cause destruction of more wildlife.

Safe alternatives for farmers

Ahmedabad: Forest department officers say that farmers can fence their land with agave or mehendi plants as these keep the wild animals away but do not kill them. Deputy conservator of forests Kasuladev Ramesh said a farmer should dig a trench 1.2 metre-long, two feet wide and two feet deep. The mud should be mounted towards the field and have thorny fence or agave plantation. The thorny fence would attain a good height in a couple of years and would be able to prevent not just wild bore but even neelgai from entering the fields.

Wild bore, which move in groups, do not eat much but destroy the field. They cannot jump; hence the trenches would be effective in keeping them out. Another method is the ancient one of stonewall fencing. Ramesh said that a barbed fence is also a good option but it is expensive and farmers will have to get them replaced every five years because they start rusting.

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