Thiruvananthapuram: The Centre has repeatedly denied Kerala’s request to declare the wild boar as vermin despite increasing instances of man-animal conflict and crop loss caused.
When state forest minister AK Saseendran met Union minister of environment, forest and climate change Bhupender Yadav in New Delhi in November last year and requested him to declare wild boars as vermin in view of the destruction caused by the species and increasing conflicts with humans, the ministry sought more time.
Subsequently, the Union government declined Kerala’s request on March 7. When Saseendran again wrote to Yadav requesting him to reconsider the decision, the minister replied on April 12 contending that declaring wild boars as vermin would result in the indiscriminate killing of the animal and upset the balance of the habitat.
Saseendran has termed the Centre’s decision as “anti-people” considering that a similar relaxation was given to Uttarakhand and Bihar for a year in 2016.
Following the Centre’s decision, Kerala Karshaka Sangham, the state unit of the All India Kisan Sabha, organised protests at the forest head office in Thiruvananthapuram and at 11 district offices on Monday demanding effective measures to minimise crop loss caused by wild animals and submitted a memorandum. Sangham president M Vijayakumar demanded urgent intervention of the state and the Centre to control attacks on crops and farmers by wild animals.
When a wild boar marked attendance at a Karshakasangham protest venue.
The ministry can declare wild boars (Sus scrofa), listed under Schedule III of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, as vermin under Schedule V, which includes vermin like the common crow, fruit bat, mice and rats. Including wild boars in Schedule V would allow their culling without facing criminal charges and consumption of their meat.
Kerala government had initially allowed farmers to kill wild boars with licensed guns following the rising anger against crop loss and man-animal conflict. Though the state government has now decided to extend the special order for another year starting from May 17, 2022, restrictions and conditions apply—a wild boar that enters farmland can only be shot with a licensed gun in the presence of a forest guard and the flesh should be burnt with kerosene and buried.
“None of us have objections to conserving wildlife. But survival is at stake; we can’t let wild animals destroy our livelihood. Either the forest authorities should take effective measures to prevent wild animals from entering farmlands or compensate us adequately on time,” Thomas Parackal and Elsy Thomas, a farming couple from Panickamkudy, Idukki, tell Newsclick.
“Wild boars destroy plantains, tapioca and other tuber crops. They also destroy cardamom cultivation by digging out the roots. Their presence near farmlands has significantly increased over the years,” Thomas adds. “Culling is a better option to control their excessive population. Shooting them is impractical as it includes too many restrictions.”
The Parackals live in constant fear of wild boars. “Wild boars are a threat to our lives and livelihood. We fear entering our farm after dusk as the number of attacks have increased. A 30-year-old man in the neighbourhood who was of my son’s age recently died in a motorcycle accident caused by a wild boar,” Elsy says.
Wild boars account for around 60% of the crop loss in the state. According to a reply by the forest department in Parliament, the Kerala government disbursed around Rs 5 crore as compensation for crops loss against wild boar attacks in 971 applications in 2020-2021, Rs 3.53 crore in 2019-20 and Rs 4.6 crore in 2018-19.
As per the Centre’s direction to submit a list of ‘hot spot’ villages that face severe wild boar attacks, the state had earlier enlisted 406 villages.
Farmers in the high ranges of the state struggle to make ends meet with unpredictable and varying prices of cash crops and unreliable weather. Most of the farmers grow both cash and food crops simultaneously to avoid depending only on profit from cash crops. Besides wild boars, wild elephants are a major danger to life. According to an RTI, elephant attacks in villages and tribal settlements have claimed more than 124 lives in the state from 2014 to 2020. In addition, tigers and leopards enter farms to prey on cattle, and peacocks and monkeys destroy crops.