Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gir Forest's Lions Caught in Battle Between Farmers and Crop-raiding Herbivores

Asiatic lion

It has been reported that the state of Gujarat has been witnessing recent incidents in which lions are getting killed as a result of walking into traps laid by farmers to protect their crops from nilgais (blue bulls) and wild boars. A recent arrest of two farmers in connection to the death of a lioness has revealed that the regions where lions live is experiencing a rise in its herbivore population. The census in 2013 indicated that the herbivore population in Gir Forest National Park had increased by 18% in the past three years, along with 25% growth in wild boar population. This method of protecting fresh produce is resulting in growing man-lion conflict with the lions becoming accidental victims. Activists say that farmers are greatly affected by the problem of nilgais and wild boars destroying their crops although they are uncontested in their opinion that lions are simply accidental victims and not intended targets. An activist named Dinesh Goswami stated that he had seen farms that have been completely eradicated by these herbivores, and that farmers prefer having lions and leopards near the fields which promises protection from such crop raiders. He further added that there is no compensation for crops being destroyed by herbivores, compared to livestock predation by lions.

This article clearly indicates that a safer alternative is absolutely crucial to protect the farmers' crops from nilgais and wild boars. According to Ukabhai Vasa, a native of the Dhamraj village in Gir Somnath district's Sutrapada taluka, farmers are spending 25% of their income in protecting their farms by setting up solar lights, laying boundaries, and hiring watchmen. He further added that even if the government succeeded in fencing the forest area, then the situation could be avoided. I very much feel that fencing is an ideal alternative in keeping both lions and other wildlife, including crop-raiding herbivores, safe from farmers. The method of setting up traps against animals infamous for invading farms and destroying fresh produce is known to have its drawbacks. In this case, lions becoming accidental victims of farmers intending on targeting nilgais and wild boars for devastating their crops. This is why I firmly believe that fencing the forest area from village areas is a strategy that should be greatly considered, in order to keep both villagers and their livelihood and wildlife safe from each other. In the meantime, I also feel that it is necessary for the government of Gujarat to consider providing compensation for devastation of crops to the farmers. Compensation for livestock predation alone is not always sufficient for farmers in Gujarat or anywhere else in India.

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