ERJ staff report (BC)
Kozhikode, India – Marauding elephants are inadvertently making the south western Indian region of Malabar the rising star in the nation’s rubber plantation landscape, reports K R Rajeev for the Times of India. Faced with the threat of crop-raiding wild animals, ranging from elephants and wild boars to monkeys, farmers are reported to be switching to rubber cultivation on a large scale in the hilly stretch bordering the region’s Western Ghats forests.
According to Indian Rubber Board officials, the five Malabar districts now account for a significant 80% of the new land in India that is brought under rubber cultivation annually, even as expansion in the traditional southern rubber belt has reached saturation point.
Farmers are said to be increasingly abandoning traditional crops like plantain, coconut, areca palm nut and tuber crops and going for rubber, which is considered as relatively safe from wildlife.
Mathew Sebstian, a rubber farmer from Karuvarakundu, said that hundreds of hapless farmers in the region bordering the forests were embracing rubber as a survival strategy.
"Traditional agricultural activity has become totally unviable in the hilly areas … due to the rising menace from wild elephants and other wildlife. The jumbos are trampling entire areca palm nut fields and foraging the trees. Even small coconut trees are not left out, not to say about plantain and tuber crops which are getting totally devoured by wild boars," he said. Rubber Board officials said that as rubber trees were not edible, they were generally left undisurbed by marauding elephants. "Also the presence of leguminous creepers on the ground as cover for weed control dissuade elephants from having a free run in the rubber plantations," a senior official is quoted as saying.
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Full story from the Times of India