Big cat on the prowl, village on the edge
A leopard forced Kombukuthi residents to spend sleepless nights protecting their livestock
Residents of Kombukuthi, a village near Mundakkayam that shares its border with the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) on three sides, have been having sleepless nights for almost two weeks now.
Fear of a leopard lurking around the plantations here has kept them awake at night and keeping an eye on their livestock.
The Forestry Department has deployed local observers to prepare for contingencies, while camera traps have also been set up at various locations to monitor straying wildlife.
The animal, however, has not yet been found.
The leopard episode, forest department officials say, is just the latest in a string of similar incidents to be reported in villages in Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts that adjoin the PTR. Although no human casualties have been reported so far, the lives and property of residents of these habitats are still threatened by frequent wildlife raids throughout the year, especially during summer seasons. .
“Cases of leopards, king cobras, wild elephants, etc. straying into the villages along the edge of the forest have become more frequent lately. These raids, which have taken place frequently throughout the seasons, cause widespread loss of agriculture and even buildings,” an official noted.
To substantiate this point, he also pointed to a recent incident in which a herd of wild elephants crossed the Pampa River and caused damage in the agricultural areas of Kurumbanmuzhy and Arayanjilimon under the Ranni Forestry Division.
Sources, meanwhile, have sought to attribute the increasing frequency of raids to water scarcity and food shortages inside the forests during the summer months. Excessive human interventions in forests, including stone quarrying activities, have led to the depletion of green cover and groundwater in many areas.
“Forest-edge crops and livestock provide easy food for wildlife, forcing wildlife away from their natural habitat,” they said. In light of the raging protests, Forest Department officials have been on their toes to stave off the rising wave of attacks. “Solar fences erected around farmland to keep wild elephants away remain destroyed in several places and a proposal has been submitted to the state government to renovate the damaged structure. Similarly, local observers are deployed in places which have reported higher frequency of attacks,” said Rajesh, Divisional Forestry Officer, Kottayam.