Kerala government’s wild animal population control move triggers concerns

Kerala government's wild animal population control move triggers concerns

The Kerala government’s decision to seek measures for controlling the wild animal population, especially tigers, citing overpopulation as the reason for rising man-animal conflicts, has triggered concerns among environmentalists who fear a move for massive culling by hushing up the real causes.

It is in the backdrop of the back-to-back instances of tiger attacks in Wayanad that Kerala Forest Minister A K Saseendran stated that the increasing wild animal population, especially tigers in the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary, was a reason for the man-animal conflicts. The State will approach the Supreme Court seeking steps to control the wild animal population, he said.

Environmentalists alleged that there was no scientific study for the overpopulation of tigers or other wild animals in Wayanad or other forests.

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Following the massive campaigns to protect tigers, the carnivore population of Kerala increased drastically. It increased from 46 in 2006 to 190 in 2018. There were also reports in 2018 that 120 tigers were present in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary with a total area of 344 square kilometres.

The state forest authorities maintain that Wayanad sanctuary could not contain the increasing tiger population and hence mooted tiger population control through culling and relocation. A meeting on Monday also entrusted a group of forest officials to work out an action plan for dealing with the tiger menace. The minister said that the state would approach Supreme Court seeking nod for wild animal control measures.

Strongly opposing the move, environmentalists M N Jayachandran and N Badusha said that the government was trying to put the blame on the increasing tiger population for the man-animal conflicts without any scientific study and thereby hushing up the real reasons.

“The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is connected to Bandipur, Mudumalai, Nagarahole and Cauvery wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves. Tigers and other wild animals used to move around these forest areas. Hence, estimating that the Wayanad sanctuary is overpopulated by considering only the area of the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary is illogical. We will legally fight any attempts to control the tiger population of Kerala,” said Badusha, who is the president of Wayanad Prakrithi Samrakshana Samithi.

Jayachandran, who was a former member of the animal welfare board, accused the minister of being silent on the tourism activities, encroachments of forest land and changes in crop patterns near forest areas. “The state government should be carrying out a detailed scientific study to find the reasons why wild animals enter human settlements instead of mooting steps like culling,” he said.

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