Lakhimpur: With gradual depletion of forest cover, tigers and leopards have made sugarcane fields in Lakhimpur Kheri district their home posing a challenge to
the farmers residing in the area.
Over a dozen big cats have been hiding in sugarcane fields since long and their presence could lead to a man-animal conflict during the harvesting season, fear
"A recent field survey on sugarcane tigers conducted at the initiatives of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India indicated that 12 to 15 tigers are hiding in sugarcane fields in the vicinity of north Kheri, south Kheri divisions and the Dudhwa National Park," wildlife expert and member of UP state wildlife board Vijay Prakash Singh told a news agency.
"The tigers sheltered in sugarcane fields have been left totally unprotected and there is an immediate need to monitor them and to provide them protection," Singh said.
He said the frequent visibility of tigers and leopards in recent days as in Bhira, Mailani, Bankeyganj areas is because the farmers have started harvesting cane crops and the tigers are left with no other option to come out in the
open till they seek a safe hideout in the ravines of Sharda, Ghaghra and Barauchha nullah."
"The authorities may be happy with the fact that the `sugarcane tigers` have so far caused almost no harm to the people engaged in crop production but how long this would continue is hard to tell," he said.
During the recent meeting of the UP state wildlife board in Lucknow on January 10, a proposal was moved to chalk out a plan to conserve and protect these unprotected big cats.
Singh, who is also the convener of Terai Nature Conservation Society (TNCS), said tigers find no difference between big grass and sugarcane fields, which are spread over hundreds of acres of land.
"Abundance of prey including wild boars, deer and blue bulls attract the big cats towards sugarcane fields coupled with the fact that there is minimum human interference in the cane fields once the cane plants grows long," he said.
With the harvesting season around the corner, wildlife experts feel it may lead to a man-animal conflict as it happened in 2009.
"Earlier, the district had two posts of wildlife warden, Kheri and wildlife warden, tiger watch but presently these posts are lying vacant due to which there is no
mechanism to monitor the movements of tigers living outside the protected areas." Singh said.