Uttarakhand’s forest officials are in a fix and as odd as it may sound, the animal of national and political import— old and abandoned cattle—is the reason.
According to a Hindustan Times report, the villagers near Rajaji tiger reserve are abandoning their old and useless livestock that later wanders in the forest area only to fall prey to the big cat. Despite being shooed away on numerous occasions, the forest management complains that they always return.
As the government in the state and the centre has tightened the noose around the cattle sale for the purpose of slaughtering, the old bovines—that cannot be used for milking or tilting the land—become a burden for these farmers. Unable to feed these animals farmers set them free. A wandering cow or ox is a common sight not just in areas with thick vegetation but also in urban spaces.
The forest administration’s attempt to send the bovine animals back to the farmers has been futile, who turn up only to extract compensation if their bereaved ward gets killed. “Most of our time is wasted in catching them and taking them to villagers. But no one takes them,” the management was quoted as saying in the report.
The problem is set to become worse. What will India do with the 110 million buffalo that farmers have reared, asked Sirajuddin Qureshi who heads Jamaiul Quresh, the apex body of India’s Quraish Muslims, a 4 crore-strong community that owes its upper and middle income status to the meat and leather industry.
The cattle sale ban for slaughtering purposes has largely affected the meat industry in India. Over 5 crore jobs are at stake. It has also lead to such ecological imbalance.
These unwanted, mulish beings stray to the reserve with a resolve to never return. The forest department has also brought to notice the issue of ‘overgrazing’ by them which is causing them trouble especially in this hot weather.
“It’s difficult for a farmer to feed unproductive livestock. Besides, stricter norms for transporting cows have left people with little option but to leave the animals to their fate,” another forest officer informed the paper.
The forest management, furthers the report, has found around 10 cattle carcasses in the reserve. Although, cattle is not the natural prey for the tigers, but if they develop a taste there is a fear of attacks in the nearby villages also, fears the officials.