According to the new orders, the village sarpanch will be authorised to confirm crop damage by wild boars and to cull it.

Old sarees erected around paddy sapling to scare away the wild boarsFile image: Charan Teja
news Wildlife Friday, February 19, 2021 - 14:29

The Telangana government’s decision that authorises a gram panchayat sarpanch or village head to permit culling of wild boars for a period of one year, has raised concerns among the animal rights and environmental activists. In late January, the government allowed the culling of wild pigs/boars invading the agriculture or horticulture fields, which are outside reserved forests and protected areas. 

The decision came amidst the demand to declare wild boars as vermin. Farmers from different regions in the state have raised concerns over crop damages after wild boars venture into the fields. Earlier, authorised sharpshooters from the Telangana Forest Department, too, had suggested the state government declare the wild boar as vermin in certain pockets of the state, barring reserved forests and wildlife sanctuaries.

However, wildlife animal rights activists say that the new order could pave the way for misusing powers that are given to ensure damage control to the farmers.

How the new order empowers sarpanch

According to the new order, farmers who are facing crop damage due to wild boar have to lodge a complaint with the sarpanch, who will conduct a panchanama (collect evidence in the presence of five persons) of the damage in the presence of a few villagers and local forest officials.

If the crop damage is established, sharpshooters would be allowed to execute the culling. Sarpanch will discharge these duties in the capacity of Wildlife Warden for the respective gram panchayat.

Telangana Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) R Shobha said it can be done only in situations where crop damage by wild boars and a threat to human lives are established. "The sarpanch and forest officials should visit the agricultural field and inspect the crop damage.

After confirming that the damage was caused by wild pigs, conduct the panchanama and issue permission to hunt or cull the animals," she said. 

The culling will only be carried out by government-recognised sharpshooters in the state. According to officials, there are over 30 empanelled sharpshooters in Telangana. 

Sangareddy district saw its first official culling under the supervision of the sarpanch of the Pothulaboguda village of Vattipally Mandal, according to a report in Telangana Today. On getting permission from the sarpanch, two sharpshooters from the forest department shot dead two wild boars in the village. 

Sangareddy District Forest Officer (DFO) V Venkateshwar Rao said that they are overseeing the culling on a case-to-case basis. He said that the culling would involve three stages of reporting, other than the panchanama by the Sarpanch, who authorises the culling.

"The sarpanch has to give permission to the empanelled sharpshooters, after conducting a panchanama.

The sharpshooters will then carry out the culling, after which an inquest will be carried out and the corpse will be buried in a pit.

If it is found that the meat was consumed by individuals, the persons responsible, including the sarpanch, will be booked under the Wildlife Protection Act," he said. 

‘There are alternatives: Activists 

"Culling any wildlife animals is against the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, as it endangers their life. There is no guarantee that powers will be used fairly or that it will not lead to animal abuse,” said N Pravallika, wildlife conservation activist.

"Often, it is human intervention that leads to such conflicts. In many cases, such incidents were happening on lands that were once wildlife territories. The government should think of other alternatives such as sterilising the wild boars instead of abusing them," she added. 

K Babu Rao, an environmental activist and former Chief Scientist at Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), called the decision to allow the culling of wild boars “completely unfair.” 

“There was no debate on the policy that regulates the order. The government seems to be looking for simple solutions at the cost of wildlife. It has to be noted that the crop damage is not just by wild boars but by other wild animals too. So killing is not the solution. They should think of alternatives such as setting up rehabilitation zones in deep forests to accommodate the wild boars," said Babu Rao, stressing that any disturbance and encroachment of wildlife habitat by humans is one of the main reason for the growing conflict.

However, there are still some farmers who use electric fencing and mild explosives in food in certain areas although it is an offence under the Wildlife Act.

Under the Act, any action that traps an animal or injures or leaves it dead is an offence.

Padmanabha Reddy, a policy analyst and secretary of Forum For Good Governance, said that there should be vigilance on culling proposals in order to prevent unnecessary culling. "Keep a check on the areas or villages from where most applications for the culling of wild boars are coming from.

Ensure these complaints are not manufactured but a genuine case of crop damage.

It is also critical to analyse if there is a specific reason the wild boars are constantly venturing into the agricultural fields,” he said, adding these steps are important to ensure there is no abuse of power.  

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