Hunting Of Wildlife Surges, Endangered Species In Crosshairs During Lockdown
As the nation-wide lockdown stretches beyond one month, incidents of hunting of animals in areas adjacent to forests have soared.
Wildlife activists express concern that if the forest department does not take action with a sense of urgency, many animals under threat of extinction will be wiped out.
In the background of the lockdown, youngsters living in villages near forests trespass into forest areas and hunt as a pastime, killing a variety of animals including deer, boar and monitor lizards.
Some of these men even post videos of such hunting missions on social media.
The video clip above is one shared on TikTok by a few young men who caught monitor lizards in the forest.
It is illegal to hunt monitor lizards as they are an endangered species.
Many people have taken to hunting in villages adjacent to hilly terrains across Tamil Nadu. A resident of such a village near Pollachi said, “Because of lockdown, many young men are unable to work and are forced to be at home. As there are many restrictions imposed by police, some of them go into forest areas to spend time. If they come across animals, they hunt them, cook and eat the meat, before returning home.”
Meanwhile, because of stricter enforcement of regulations on sale of meat in order to prevent infection, price of meat has skyrocketed. Mutton now costs Rs 1000 per kg while country chicken costs Rs 800. In this situation, villagers who have no source of income have been forced to hunt for meat, say villagers.
Wild boar, monitor lizards, forest chicken and deer are easy targets for the hunters. In Valparai area, there was an incident of even a porcupine being hunted.
An official of the forest department in Coimbatore who spoke to us on this matter said: “Porcupines are generally not targets of hunters. But these animals may get caught in traps set by hunters using barbed wire. Last week, we arrested a gang that ate a porcupine ensnared in the trap.”
Activists say that it is in Coimbatore district that the maximum number of such hunting incidents take place.
“Since there are many private farms in areas on the fringes of forests, many indulge in hunting in those areas without it coming to the notice of the forest department. In order to contain this menace, the services of local volunteers should be used,” says nature activist Vanam Chandrasekar.
When Forest Minister Dindigul Srinivasan was contacted, he asserted, “Action has been taken against people who trespass into forests and those who indulge in hunting have been arrested.”
According to the forest department, throughout Tamil Nadu, close to 200 cases have been registered by the forest department and at least 25 persons have been arrested. A total sum of about Rs 41 lakhs has been collected as fine in just over a month.
The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife Warden) S Yuvaraj stated: “We have stepped up patrolling in forests throughout the state. All forest guards and foresters have been ordered to be on duty without availing themselves of any leave. I have myself personally inspected tiger reserves.”
According to wildlife activists, apart from killing of animals, there is also the danger of Coronavirus spreading among wildlife in the forests.
When NS Manokaran, a senior wildlife veterinarian was contacted, he said, “There is no scientific evidence to establish that Coronavirus spreads from humans to animals. Yet, it is essential that people refrain from going into forests and avoid contact with animals.”
People living in villages close to the forests are economically backward and depend upon daily wage work.
Because of lockdown, they have lost their only source of income and have been forced to resort to hunting because of poverty, say social activists.