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Problems, as wild animals multiply in Kerala: Legislators

Posted on Dec 19, 12:07PM | IANS

Elephants, tigers, boars, pigs and monkeys have been multiplying Kerala's forests, and there is thus also a rise in instances of man-animal conflict in the state, a Congress legislator said in the Kerala assembly Wednesday.

Sunny Joseph, a Congress legislator from Kannur district, asked for immediate government intervention to see that security measures are taken, and walls erected to keep wild animals off human habitations.

"In the past five years, 55 lives were lost after wild animals ran amok. The animals also caused destruction of property worth Rs 4.10 crore in the districts of Waynad and Kannur alone. This has also caused a dent in the resources of the state government, which now pays Rs. three lakh as compensation when a life is lost because of an attack by a wild animal. The need of the hour is to do away with electric fences and build walls around forested areas that border human habitations," Joseph said.

The legislator also pointed to the ability of animals to adapt. These days, elephants are "wiser" know how to disconnect the electric fences around wildlife habitats, he said.

"The elephants tactfully destroy the live electric fences by first disconnecting the line by short circuiting it; then they make sure they destroy the electric poles which do not have any current. Then they enter human habitations," Joseph explained.

State Forest Minister K.B. Ganesh Kumar agreed with Joseph, and said that parts of his constituency in Kollam district also border forest areas; so the problems are familiar.

"I have two villages in my constituency where monkeys play havoc. No cooking can be done because the monkeys take away cooked food. We have now given orders to get big cages to catch these monkeys and release them in forests," Kumar said.

He pointed out that he had raised this problem with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, and added that steps were being taken to construct walls in "troubled" areas.

"As a first phase, we have a project worth Rs.80 crore. To build a kilometre of wall costs around Rs. nine million; we have set aside Rs.12.75 crore for providing electric fences and trenches and NABARD has also extended Rs. six crore in Wayanad district," Kumar said.

Kumar said that the forest department also faced a staff crunch, with only around 6,000 employees. "We have now asked for creation of another 700 posts, and have asked that the tribal watchers be made permanent," Kumar said.

He said there were more now than 7,000 elephants in the wild in Kerala.