Fruit trees, first line of defence against man-animal conflict in the Western Ghats

Mangaluru: What's the best way to prevent monkeys, elephants, peacocks and other animals and birds from drifting into villages bordering forests in search of food and thereby creating havoc? Plant more and more fruit bearing trees in the forests so that the animals and birds can have their fill in the forest itself instead of straying out.

There have been several cases of human-animal conflict in recent years which results in the deaths of humans as well as animals. Environmentalists believe the lack of fruits and berries in the forests force them to move to villages or to the roads near the forest.

“Just travel along Charmadi Ghat, Shiradi Ghat, Agumbe Ghat or any such road in the vicinity of the forest and you will find monkeys on both sides of the road eagerly waiting for biscuits or other eatables people throw away. This is because the fruits and berries on which these animals depend, are hardly found inside the forest,” Sahyadri Sanchaya convener Dinesh Holla explains.

“Elephants too enter the villages near the forest in search of food and so do monkeys and birds. Earlier they was enough fruit, vegetables and berries  but now it is simply not enough,” he told Deccan Chronicle. So instead of growing acacia, eucalyptus or such trees in the reserve forests, the forest department can grow fruit bearing trees like mango, jackfruit and cokam  which will provide wood and timber as well as fruits to the animals and birds.

"Once these trees start bearing fruits, the number of animals and birds entering villages in search of food will decrease. The crop and people in the village too will be safe,” Holla added.  The National Environment Care Federation has already started such an effort in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts by planting fruit bearing trees with the help of college students.

“In the first phase of the programme, we planted about 350 fruit bearing saplings at the reserve forest in Renjala village near Karkala yesterday. A similar program will be held in  6-7 places in the next two months,” NECF state general secretary Shashidhar Shetty said.

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