Hassan: Elephants, guar and deer, which have had very little to eat or drink in the Nagarhole National Park owing to the drought of the last couple of years, are having to compete for the little there is with cattle illegally grazing inside the forests. Even worse, conservationists believe the illegal grazing could lead to increased poaching of wildlife. Spread over 640 sq kms across Mysuru and Madikeri districts, the park is fenced with discarded rail tracks to prevent elephants from straying into neighbouring villages, but it is opened at regular intervals to drive back the jumbos, which do still manage to stray out of the forests on occasion.
Using this gap in the fence, villagers bring their cattle to the forests for grazing in Kolavige, Chikkahejoor, Muduganuru, Taraka, and Honnammanakatte, among other sections on the fringes of the park, says a wildlife conservationist. Worryingly, some of the cattle grazers have links with poachers and pass on the information on where the animals can be found to help them hunt them, he claims. Adding to his and other conservationists’ concern, two camera traps meant for tigers were removed by unidentified persons recently and this has only added to their belief that poachers are at work in the park.
“They clearly wanted to escape being photographed ,” they maintain. Police sources confirmed that a complaint was received from forest officials about the stolen cameras. “Illegal grazing had come under control, but it is flourishing again thanks to politicians mounting pressure on forest officials,” the conservationists claim.