CAN THE government, especially its forest department that is mandated to protect wildlife, facilitate a paid contract to kill wild animals causing damage to crops?
The question has caused a vertical split in the department, with Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Shri Bhagwan disapproving of the idea being implemented by Chief Conservator of Forests, Chandrapur, Sanjay Thakre to cull hundreds of wild boar in the district. Over 200 wild boars have been killed since February by a professional sharpshooter from Hyderabad, Nawab Shafat Ali Khan, hired by the forest department for the job in the constituency of Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar. The campaign has attracted severe criticism from wildlife activists. While Thakre remained unavailable for comments, Shri Bhagwan said, “I certainly don’t approve of this kind of contract killing…”
The forest department had issued a government resolution a few years ago to allow farmers to kill herbivores that destroy crops. “I had issued instructions some time back that the farmers should approach district rifle associations for help but I don’t think we should ourselves give a contract to any shooter to cull such animals. I’m not convinced about this approach,” said Shri Bhagwan.
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Asked if this campaign was consciously undertaken in Chandrapur because it’s Mungantiwar’s constituency, he said, “I can’t comment on it.”
A senior wildlife activist, however, questioned why was this campaign not undertaken in Yavatmal and Chandrapur, “which are worst-affected”. “Clearly it’s a political campaign,” he said.
Honorary Wildlife Warden, Chandrapur, Bandu Dhotre said, “Chandrapur is not among the districts for which the government has proposed culling of vermins. So why is it being done here?” He added, “Selective culling is still fine but to kill en masse like this is not done, particularly in tiger-bearing areas. If tiger is deprived of its favourite prey, it could lead to man-tiger conflict. And most importantly, there is no standing crop anywhere at this point of time. So why kill, just because the timing suits the shooter?”
Central India Director of Wildlife Protection Society of India Nitin Desai too criticised the culling. “There can’t be opposition to killing herbivore causing crop damage, but this kind of mass shooting without any scientific study about the intensity of the problem vis-à-vis the affected areas in a district full of tigers wandering in search of prey is simply not done. It is necessary to make proper assessment of prey base-predator dynamics of such areas before undertaking any such campaign. And why kill the animals when you can catch them and relocate in areas that are devoid of prey base for carnivore,” he said.