Recent statements by Kerala Forest Minister AK Saseendran that the government will “explore all options including culling of wild animals” to avoid frequent wildlife incursions into human habitats have not gone over well with nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.
During a meeting of all parties in Wayanad (North Kerala) on Monday, Sasendran said “Wild animals, including tiger that are a threat…human lives matter” should be culled. He also said the government would soon move the Supreme Court with an appeal to “restrict the numbers of wild animals”, including tigers, to decongest the forests.
The minister’s statement came in the wake of the killing of a farmer during a Nimr attack last week in Wayanad. The region had witnessed a closure last week and the district administration has called for a meeting of all parties on Monday. In one year, six tigers were caught in Wayanad, and one died later, while five tigers remain in the animal rescue centre.
Experts said that sterilization of large cats is not possible. We have to decongest the forest to avoid repeated attacks. The second option is execution. States like West Bengal had earlier raised such demand. He said, “Humans cannot be left at the mercy of wild animals.”
Al-Akhdar activists described the minister’s statements as “irresponsible and unwarranted,” and said that he was “playing in galleries” without any scientific thought or study. They asked him to stop illegal quarrying, resort building and other activities in marginal forest areas to ensure free movement of animals.
They said the national animal tiger was placed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act and according to the National Tiger Conservation Authority, guidelines to kill the animal were allowed “only in extreme cases as a last resort”.
The responsible minister should not make such statements without any basis or study. We have no idea who told the minister about the increase in the number of big cats in the forests of Wayanad. “It’s playing in galleries without any substance,” said Wayanad Prakruti Samrakshana Simiti, an NGO campaigning for a green cause, President N. Badusha.
How can a minister become a spokesperson for people who are resisting implementation of the reports of the Western Ghats expert panel? It instills more fear into the hearts of the local population.
Badusha asked the minister to restrict illegal quarries and resorts in the area which has 60% green cover and which has been dwindling alarmingly in the past few years.
“Now many farms are turning into resorts automatically and infrastructure is expanding as a result. It is very rampant in Wayanad and Idukki. We need healthy coexistence between animals and humans. It is normal,” said VS Vijayan, member of the expert panel of Western Ghats headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil. Animals are attracted to crops in marginal areas of forests.”
He argued that monocultures (growing a single crop in a particular area) and cash crops put undue pressure on green cover. “Culling is not a solution. We need more studies on the reported increase in wild animal numbers. It’s sad that people draw conclusions without any study,” said another wildlife expert ES Esa.
However, the minister justified his statement later, saying that it is the duty of the government to protect its people. “Many states have approached the center to reduce the number of animals being doubled. It is an accepted standard all over the world.
According to Forest Department data, over 88,000 cases of human-wildlife conflict were reported in the state in the last year and a half (June 2021 to December 2022) and 123 people lost their lives. Of the dead, snake bites claimed 64 lives, elephants killed 42, tigers and leopards eight and the rest in bison, wild boar and other animal attacks.