A Maharashtra minister's call for killing protected animals like nilgai sparks off a controversy
forest minister of Maharashtra Swarup Singh Naik has announced that the state government would allow farmers to kill wild boar and nilgai found damaging their crops. Both nilgai (the largest Asian antelope) and wild boar (the omnivorous animal is highly prolific and breeds in all seasons) fall under schedule iii of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. For animals belonging to this schedule, the law states that the chief wildlife warden or any other authorised person can issue written orders for their hunting if they pose a danger to property and people.
The decision, taken at a meeting convened by the Maharashtra State Wildlife Advisory Board, has been severely criticised by many conservationists, including Debi Goenka of Bombay Environment Action Group, Bittu Sahgal, editor of Sanctuary magazine, and Jagdish Punetha of the World Wide Fund for Nature, India. In an earlier interview to Down to Earth , V B Mathur, a wildlife scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India, said: "Our ability to deal with depleting species is easier than dealing with increasing species. That is because there are no laws to deal with locally abundant species and the current law prohibits culling."
"Under proper scientific management, such species need to be harvested or culled," says Mathur. Few months ago, conservationists in Mumbai had suggested that the state government should commission the Bombay Natural History Society to undertake a field project to study this problem and come up with ecologically suitable options. However, not much is known of the project. The forest minister admitted that he was under pressure from local politicians to allow killing because they were destroying the crops of poor farmers.
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