Feral cattle pose threat to Idukki wildlife
IDUKKI An increase in the number of feral cattle poses a threat to the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary with the wild animals, listed under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, competing for the limited grass resources in the sanctuary in the absence of known predators there.
The wildlife sanctuary hosts one of the largest population of feral cattle including bulls, cows, buffaloes and she buffaloes. With the construction of the Iduklki dam in 1976, these once domesticated animals, sent to forests for grazing, were trapped inside the sanctuary by the reservoir waters.
These feral cattle are wild in nature now, after remaining in the forest for generations. They move in groups and mostly graze in the forest areas close to the Valakode and Kulamavu dam, says a Forest department official.
In 2015, an impact study was conducted and their culling was suggested as the sanctuary hosts mainly elephants, sambar deer, barking deer, mouse deer and jungle cat, with the only known predator being wild dhole. The study was conducted as part of a management plan for the sanctuary till 2022..
Since wild animals have to compete for the limited grass resources, as the sanctuary is spread over a limited area of 150 sq km, a balanced and healthy environment for the wild animals in the sanctuary was mooted. Moreover, they could turn easy carriers of diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease to the wild animals as the feral cattle move from the buffer zone to the core area.
Wildlife experts suggest culling of the feral cattle for a balanced management of the wildlife in the sanctuary. However, a final decision is pending due to the practical formalities and social impact such a decision could make on the wildlife in the sanctuary. It would give a `bad taste’ to the public and could negatively impact the protection of listed wild animals, says the official.
As per norms, culled animals should be buried and it creates additional expenses and efforts that might disturb the wild ambience of the sanctuary. When contacted, Idukki wildlife warden B. Rahul told The Hindu that there is no explosion in the number of feral cattle in recent times. An impact study on the feral cattle would be conducted soon and a report prepared.