If conservation efforts at the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve have to be supported by those living near the forests, their support must be gained, according to R Gokul, conservator of forests at the Reserve.
“Conservation efforts which began in 1972 are bearing fruitful results now. Karnataka is now known as the tiger state but our real problem is with elephants, especially considering that the space has to be shared by elephants and tigers,” he said.
Gokul said efforts are on to keep elephants away from human habitats.
“We have tried various methods to prevent elephants from destroying crops in villages. We tried trenches but found that elephants got into them and pushed and pulled each other out. We then deepened the trenches and this seems to have worked so far. We built tall walls to keep the elephants in the forests but then the animals simply jumped up and down the wall. These were then fitted with spikes. We have used rail rods and spiked pillars to keep elephants out and these seem to be working, for now,” he said.
Conservation Affecting Villagers
While conservation efforts are being appreciated, they pose difficulties for those living near forests and reserves, Gokul remarked.
“There is an urgent need to increase the ex-gratia for villagers whose cattle are taken away by tigers or leopards. While farmers get about `25,000 for their cattle when it dies of foot and mouth disease, when something as random as a tiger hunting cattle occurs, the farmer only gets `3,000,” he said.
Workers on ground, crucial in the works of the Forest department, also need more support from the government, Gokul said.
“We have had instances of guards dying from appendicitis because they could not get treatment. Most workers do not even know what ailments they may have until it is too late. We have provided health insurance to about 450 workers, but this is not enough. At present, we are working on tying up with hospitals to provide free treatment to forest department workers,” he added.