Amid growing instances of wild animals straying out of their habitat to forage, conflicts with humans have risen to an alarming proportion in settlement areas bordering thick forests. Such human-animal conflicts are widely prevalent along settlements near the Western Ghats in the state.
Against this backdrop, in an effort to prevent elephants from wandering out of the forest in search of food, the Coimbatore Forest Department is developing a fodder bank for jumbos and wild animals inside the reserve forest area at Mettupalayam near here. As many as 25 acres have been earmarked for growing natural fodder for elephants, deer and other wild animals in the core forest area.
Groundwork for commencing the pilot project has begun with the removal of weeds in the area. The Forest Department has planned to grow bamboo, preferred mostly by elephants, and grass for deer, besides fruit-bearing trees and indigenous flora, including banyan, peepal, fig (athi maram), tamarind, gooseberry and jamun (naaval maram) at the site.
“Initially, about 1,500 bamboo trees and 500 other saplings will be planted. Once the trees grow big, it will turn into a mini-forest and provide perfect fodder for the elephants and other animals. This would help in preventing wild animals from wandering out of the forests in search of food,” said N Satheesh, District Forest Officer, Coimbatore Forest Division.
To prevent wild animals from entering the fodder bank and damaging the growing plants, elephant-proof trenches have been dug for about 2 kilometres surrounding the area.
“The reserve has been solar-fenced and special teams of Forest Department staff deployed to monitor the project. Arrangements have been made for plants to receive natural water from streams running through the jungle,” said the official.
The department hopes that the trees will grow big in five years, when entry routes will be made for wild animals to enter the reserve and consume the fodder. Thereafter, elephants may continue to stay there and wouldn’t stray into residential areas.
- 240-260kg food consumed by an adult jumbo every day
- 18 hours time spent grazing by the elephants regularly
- 70% of forage available in reserve forest
- 25 acres earmarked for growing fodder for elephants, deer and other animals at Mettupalayam
- 1,500 bamboo trees and 500 other saplings to be planted