Recently, I have been interviewing farmers in the lower/middle Palanis when I came across a very interesting patch of farm lands.
About 20 minutes’ drive from Thandikudi village is the north eastern limit of the Kodaikanal Wildlife sanctuary. A ten minute walk inside the forest and you enter the village Perunganal, where 110 acres of ‘patta’ land is completely surrounded by the forest. It is home to twenty families, each owning 2 – 14 acres where coffee, pepper, beans and banana are grown.
Muthupandi, who lives in Perunganal tells me that 6 – 7 families have left their land fallow and moved out of the village. He says that they previously had to deal with gaur and wildboar raiding their crops but this year, their wildest fear had come true. About 6 months ago, elephants destroyed their crops, especially banana. This has never happened before and now its become a regular affair. According to Thavasi who owns 10 acres, a huge elephant entered his field and destroyed about 300 banana trees. Thavasi had another 500 trees removed the next day so that the elephant wouldn’t come back!
If farmers have to now protect their crops from elephants, Muthupandi says there definately won’t be any farming in the hills in the coming years!
1. Dhruv Athreye in February 2018 began a survey of mammals in the Palani Hills and is publishing notes of his field work.