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Watchmen to curb man-animal conflict

- Over 50 youths in Kendrapara given training to keep away wild boars from villages
Solar-powered fencing to ward off animal intrusion near the forest area in Talchua. Telegraph picture

Kendrapara, Nov. 14: Residents living near the peripheral villages of Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary will now act as night watchmen to curb man-animal conflict.

In the latest initiative by forest department to protect wildlife, over 50 residents were imparted training to keep night vigil in villages to drive away stray wild boars.

“We are engaging the local residents on an experimental basis during the harvesting season to check crop loss. Animals often enter the fields and ravage the standing crops, causing loss to farmers. It results in man-animal conflict in human settlements near forest areas,” divisional forest officer of Rajnagar mangrove (wildlife) forest division Manoj Kumar Mahapatra said.

Wild boars are found trespassing into villages during paddy harvesting season. With consequent crop damage, the man-animal conflict erupts in sanctuary-side villages.

“To arrest this trend, we have started enrolling local youths to keep a watch on intruding animals. They are being imparted training by the forest department. They are being provided with firecrackers and batons to chase away the boars. The empanelled persons will be paid a daily amount of Rs 150. The plan is to provide income to unemployed local youths. This will also save the crops from being vandalised,” said Mahapatra.

Earlier, the department had installed a 5km of solar-powered fencing from Talchua village to Rangani to ward off the animals.

The experiment proved to be a success.

However, the villages on the sanctuary side are yet to be covered under the solar fencing network. As a result, straying of animals is yet to be fully checked. Thus, the night patrol by local youths would put a check to animal intrusion, said the divisional forest officer.

The animal menace had assumed alarming proportions during the crop-cutting season. Boars were straying into villages close to the sanctuary, wreaking havoc, said the official.

The mangrove forest cover within the sanctuary is home to thousands of wild boars. But in recent years, the sharp increase in population of these animals has emerged as a major cause of worry for wildlife sanctuary officials.

With thickly populated villages dotting the periphery of the forest, the man-boar conflict has reached a flashpoint. Three wild boars were killed last year by villagers in retaliation.