MADIKERI: The annual maintenance works in the estates, mostly dealing with coffee, adjoining the forest areas in South Kodagu have been hit by labour shortage lately. The maintenance works like pruning will be carried out during the months of March and April every year. The labour shortage has cropped up because of wild animals frequently entering human habitations and attacking cattle and humans. Three people died after being mauled by tigers last year. This year, on March 28, an estate worker was killed after being attacked by a tiger. The movements of elephants have also been reported quite often in the region.
As usual, the forest department is involved in the search operation for the evading tiger that killed one person last month. But their efforts have not yielded results so far.
“Three deaths of humans due to a tiger attack last year and one human death this year…the tiger conflict has instilled fear among many who are residing in the tiger-conflict areas of South Kodagu. The fear of the prowling tiger has resulted in labourers not entering the estates. Even if labourers visit, the owner of the property is always worried about the safety of his workers,” said Harish Madappa, a coffee grower.
The tiger is on the prowl across the conflict areas of B Shettigeri, Hudikeri, Beguru, Eshuru and other surrounding villages. A 30-km radius has become the territory of a tiger that has so far claimed a human life and many lives of cattle this year.
“In March, an estate labourer picking pepper was attacked from behind and killed by a tiger. The movements of the tiger are very quiet and this elusive tiger is huge in size. When someone spots the tiger in an estate, the message is circulated and no labourer wants to report to work as it is a matter of life and death,” shared Girish Ganapathi, a small grower and vice president of B Shettigeri Grama Panchayat.
He explained, “A neighbour woman grower is very scared to go into her estate. We form a team and enter our estates due to the fear of the tiger. Earlier, all of us growers took a walk around the estate managing the maintenance work. But now, we are forced to carry guns and we take jeeps inside the estates fearing the tiger.”
The estate maintenance works including the pruning, fertilization and digging of waterways are all pending due to the labour problem that has emerged following the tiger movement and the increased wild elephant movement. “Just three days ago, three wild elephants entered my estate and damaged crops. The increasing wildlife conflict is causing great worries among small coffee growers,” he concluded.