TIRUPPUR: Dear o deer! You can well exclaim in this instance.
A 70-year-old resident of Pudupalayam in Avinashi, R Gurusamy has left 45 acres of his land in the village for the spotted deer to graze on for over 20 years. This has helped the deer population in the locality rise from 400 to over 1,200, according to unofficial estimates.
“Being a farmer and a nature lover, I was always fond of animals. I got this parcel of land along the Khousikha River as my share of our ancestral property. While farming here one day in 1996, I found a couple of spotted deer wandering along the banks of the river. The deer later joined my cattle and began grazing on my pasture. Later, they began staying with my goats and cows.
"This was a rare sighting of deer in our village, and so I started allowing them to stay on my pasture. As they mostly fed on grass, which is found throughout the year here, the pasture slowly became their home. Besides, the dense thickets on my land served as their shelter from rain and sun,” Gurusamy said. It is believed the deer came from Coimbatore and took the dried-up riverbed as their route.
When drought came and water became scarce, Gurusamy dug pits and filled them with water. With no natural predator to hunt them, the animals swelled in numbers and started entering nearby farmlands.
“Thankfully, my friend C Balasundaram and another farmer who owned several acres of coconut grove supported my cause and didn’t mind the animals entering their land,” he said.
But, the rising deer population did attract one predator – poachers. “With the help of Balasundaram and a few villagers, we caught two poaching teams and handed them over to police in 2008 and 2010,” Gurusamy claimed.
Speaking to The New Indian Express about Gurusamy’s deer haunt, Nature Society of Tiruppur (NST) President K Ravindran said: “His farmland resembles a forest, like the Bandipur National Park. Its environment is ideal for spotted deer. I believe there could be around 800 spotted deer in Pudupalayam village alone. The credit goes to Gurusamy and farmers like him,” he said.
Not all, however, share Gurusamy’s love for deer. Many farmers in the locality said the rising deer population has created an ecological imbalance and is posing a threat to their crops. A few have even petitioned the local authorities to remove the animals from the village. “I have no problem with relocating the deer from my farmland. But, they must be transported safely to a forest,” he said.
When contacted, Assistant Conservator of Forest (Tiruppur), K Ganeshram said: “We are aware of the rising number of spotted deer in Pudupalayam and adjoining areas. It is creating an issue for both farmers and the forest department, but relocating these animals to a dense forest is tough. Nonetheless, we have sent a proposal to the State government to form an expert committee to analyse and resolve this issue.”