Kilanavayal, a small village 8 kilometers north of Manavanur and close to 42 kilometers from Kodaikanal town is different from all the other villages I have visited so far in the past 5 months. Agriculture being their primary source of income, 120 households and their fields are wedged between not one but two wildlife sanctuaries, Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary and the Indira Ghandi Wildlife Sanctuary. This beautiful village with stunning views of rolling hills has no bus route and feels completely cut off.
Peas, beans ,carrots and banana are the usual crops grown in this village. Crops are regularly raided by gaur, barking deer, wild boar and porcupine. Peacocks are a recent addition to the list where farmers feel they destroy the peas seeds. This is the first instance that I have come across peacocks as crop raiders in the upper Palanis. People believe that the forest department have introduced hundreds of peacocks in the forest after the wildlife sanctuary was declared. Interestingly, fields bordering the wildlife sanctuaries are cultivated only once a year, between September and January. Potato is cultivated and once it’s harvested the land is fallow for the rest of the year. Lack of water and regular crop raiding from animals is the reason for this.
During this potato harvest season ( about 2 months ago) a herd of wild elephants raided the fields bordering the Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary in Kilanavayal destroying almost 75 percent of the crop as well as bringing down sheds. Elephants are not common in this area and farmers are scared that their main livelihood option might not be vialble if elephants frequent their fields too.
1. Dhruv Athreye in February 2018 began a survey of mammals in the Palani Hills and is publishing notes of his field work.