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26 Feb 2020, Edition - 1688, Wednesday

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Coimbatore

Home Guards to help Forest Department to combat human animal conflict

Umaima Shafiq

For the first time in Tamil Nadu, the Coimbatore Division Forest Department (DFO) has sought the help of Coimbatore District Home Guards to help resolve human animal conflict in the district.
About 50 Home Guard personnel attended a preliminary one-day training programme at a training centre in Anaikatti, which taught them animal behaviour and how to control public in situations where animals turn aggressive, resulting sometimes in loss of lives.

“A lot of animals particularly elephants strayed into human habitat in Valparai from February to October. The pachyderms raid villages, hamlets, agricultural lands and tea plantations. They come to eat rice and salt stored in the houses and can attack human beings if they turn aggressive. At such times, our department’s defence squads armed with vehicles, helmets and air guns are deployed to chase them away particularly during the evenings from 4-6 pm. However, we are short of such staff and most of the time we are unable to control the public which would gather either to watch or protest if there are human casualties, ” a senior forest official said.

He official who did not wish to be named added, “So we decided to involve the Coimbatore Home Guards to work with us. Their Area and Deputy Commanders Balaji Raju and Vidyashree Dharmaraj, gave us the permission to engage their personnel stationed at Valparai. So about 50-60 Home Guards attended the preliminary training programme at Anaikatti. We taught them the characteristics of animals like elephants, leopards and gaurs like how, when and where they are likely to stray. Also, we taught them how to control the public and how not to disturb the animals as the foresters chased them back into the forest.”

V Selvan Assistant Director Conservator of Forests (ACF) told The Covai Post, “Home Guards are doing a lot of supportive work for the Police Department like traffic control and other allied duties. So for the first time in Tamil Nadu, we thought of engaging them in forest department work.

Also, the human animal conflict takes place outside the forest, so Home Guards from Valparai, Thudiyalur, Mettupalayam, which are all conflict-ridden areas can really help. We taught them each animal’s behaviour, its attack motives and ways to handle them. For example, controlling the crowds that would gather soon after such incidents was a huge job for us. Since the Home Guards are also in uniform like us, the public will obey without protest.”

He added that they planned to continue the joint operations that will begin tentatively next week. “Valparai and Thudiyalur have straying elephants, while the Mettupalayam foothills have gaurs, as their population has increased slightly. Bison and sloth bears are rarer to spot. Home Guards will teach the public not to provoke these animals,” said Selvan.

According to Area Commander Balaji Raju, the home guards will assist the forest guards as per the guidance of the Supervision of Superintendent of Police, Sujith Kumar. The Company Commanders of Thudiyalur, Pollachi and Mettupalayam units and Advisor M Madasamy participated.

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