Mahesh Dan, 50, farmer from Jalore, Rajasthan speaks on the recent debate of culling animals such as Nilgais who have been declared ‘vermin’ by the state.
1. What is the extent of damage the nilgais have done to your crops?
It is a very serious problem. If nilgais manage to enter a field full of crops, they do not leave anything behind. Even barbed wire fences have failed to stop them. So, unless you have the money to get the fences electrified, these animals damage not only your crops but also the fence.
2. What, according to you, is the cause of the problem?
One of the primary reasons why nilgais step out of the wild is to drink water from the village ponds. Earlier, villagers depended on water from ponds and nilgais didn’t venture into these areas because of the presence of people. But now most households have their own piped water systems and the ponds are deserted. So nilgais are not scared anymore.
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3. So what have you been doing to tackle the problem?
We keep a watch ourselves or hire someone to watch over the fields at night, since that is when the nilgais usually come. Sometimes we pay members from other communities to kill the animals. We don’t want to kill them ourselves… I know it’s not a cow, but it is still called nilgai. We pay Rs 500 for each killing.
4. Besides crop damage, is there any other damage that nilgais do?
Well, they are huge animals and regularly cause accidents on the highway by running into bikers. One of my nephews had a serious accident when his bike collided with a nilgai at night. They also attract other wild predators such as panthers towards human settlements.
5. So like Bihar, Uttarakhand and Himachal, do you think culling of animals declared vermins should be permitted in Rajasthan too?
The government doesn’t need to cull them. They should be tranquillized and moved to the Ranthambore National Park or some other wildlife sanctuary. That will get them off our backs and provide a natural prey for tigers too.