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The Rediff Special/Rahul Singh
MP allows blue bull hunting
Legend has it that the neelgai - literally the blue cow - was given the name by Emperor Aurangzeb to prevent large-scale slaughter of the magnificent antelopes. After three decades of conservation, the Madhya Pradesh government recently allowed hunting of blue bulls, protected since 1972. The decision comes in wake of the burgeoning blue bull population and damage it caused to farmers' crops.
The government will permit shooting of blue bulls in selected parts of the state where the animals have been destroying crops for several years. Under the new law, the hunters will be only satisfying their game skills. The "kill" will be state property.
To allow hunting, said official sources, the government has evoked Section 11 of Wildlife Protection Act, which permits killing of animals if they pose any threat to the habitat or destroy crops.
It is a problem of plenty, say official sources. About 10,000 hectares of agricultural land is affected by blue bulls' menace in Bhind, Morena and Gwalior districts - the badlands popularly known as the Chambal valley. The decision to allow hunting was taken following persistent demands by farmers that they should be compensated for crop loss or be permitted to kill the animals. The MLAs, representing the affected districts, too had been raising the issue in the state assembly.
The districts harbour about 50 per cent of the 20,000 blue bulls in the state. The antelope has also become a headache for farmers in other parts of the state like Chhattarpur, Tikamgarh and Datia districts.
The killing has started
These areas have turned into battlegrounds between man and animal. Without waiting for the official decree, farmers had already started killing the bulls.
Encroachments on forest land and shrinking forest cover have forced the bulls to raid agricultural land in search of food. The failure of the forest department to keep the food chain intact worsened the situation.
With no predators in the forest, the blue bull population remained unchecked. Towards the end of 1998 there were 13,743 blue bulls which has now shot up to 20,000.
"Nature's delicate balance has been upset," says J J Dutta, a former chief wildlife warden of Madhya Pradesh. He suggests a proper study on wildlife management be carried out before culling the bulls.
Is hunting the only solution in a state where poachers are already on the prowl? There is another option - translocation of the animals.
However, former forest officer Ghyanshayam Saxena says translocation involves expertise which Madhya Pradesh lacks. He recalls that the plan to transport black bucks, a protected species, from Bhandhavgarh from Kanha National Park failed. Saxena also fears misuse of the new order.
Not everyone is happy with the decision. Forest officials reluctantly said it would not be proper to comment as the "decision has been taken by the state government".
Official sources say that Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have already given permission to kill blue bulls. The UP government had authorised collectors to issue permits for the killing. In Rajasthan, the powers are vested with the district forest officer.
It is not the first time that the state government is facing this problem. Earlier, the booming population of 'endangered' black bucks at Karera Sanctuary in Shivpuri district led to the destruction of standing crops in neighbouring fields.
The state government failed to take a decision, including culling of the animals, to curb the menace. The farmers then hired hunters from a neighbouring town to kill the animals. As a result the population of this graceful animal had come down from 3,000 to 250.
Wild boars next
The next on the hunting list, say sources, are wild boars. Farmers particularly in tribal areas have been complaining about damage to crop by wild boars.
Boars, say the farmers, are worse than blue bulls. While the bulls eat standing crop, boars invade fields even during sowing, dig up the field and eat freshly sown seeds.
Normally, an increase in the number for herbivores should result in an increase of carnivores. But that does not seem to have happened in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh - indicating a missing link in the food chain.
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