Improper disposal of garbage waste in the town panchayats and municipalities in the Nilgiris is enticing sloth bears into human habitations, leading to a risk of problematic interactions with humans.
In recent years, sloth bears have been seen with increasing regularity in towns across the Nilgiris, especially in Kotagiri. Due to regular interactions with humans, the Forest Department has been forced to lay cages to try and trap the animals and relocate them into reserve forests.
However, this strategy is untenable in the long-run, said N.Sadiq Ali, founder of the Wildlife and Nature Conservation Trust (WNCT). “Relocation is essentially a death sentence for territorial animals like sloth bears, who run a high chance of having to fight for territory with other sloth bears, leopards and tigers in their new habitat,” he said, adding that acclimatising to new habitats is also difficult for relocated animals.
The conservationist also highlighted one particular capture operation earlier this year in Kotagiri, when an adult sloth bear was captured in a cage kept to trap it, while two other juveniles – the animal’s cubs escaped. “There is a chance that the two cubs died due to being separated from their mother. The Forest Department, instead of looking to mitigate these conflicts, rushing in to capture these animals without understanding the long-term consequences,” he added.
Kartiki Gonsalves, a documentary filmmaker from the Nilgiris, is working with the WNCT and the Forest department to photograph the sloth bears which venture out from the forests and into human habitations.
“As the Nilgiris is a biosphere reserve, steps must be taken to ensure that open dumping of garbage does not occur, and that all waste is managed effectively. Relocation of sloth bears should also be only used as a last resort, and people must be sensitized about how their actions also contribute to problematic interactions,” said Mr. Sadiq Ali.
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