With six milch cows, Esakkiamma Selvaraj, 58, was a known dairy farmer in Gavi. She used to get up early in the morning to milk her cows and suppky it to the villagers, and then give the remaining to the milk society in Vallakadavu. It helped her earn a good income. But now, she has completely stopped dairy farming, as all of her cows, including an eight-month pregnant one, were taken away by tigers and leopards.
“We had been dairy farming for 6-7 years. But in the last two months, tigers and leopards have been coming to our house premises at night and taking away our cattle. I was so pained that I couldn’t even have food properly for some days. I was unable to sleep without crying. Though I wanted to continue dairy farming, it is impossible here now,” said Esakkiamma.
Gavi, a small village in Seethathodu panchayat in Pathanamthitta, is a part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) since 2012. Before Gavi and other areas of Ranni were added, PTR spanned 777 sq km. In 2012, this increased to 925 sq km. As per the data available with the Forest Department, 40-45 tigers live in PTR region. People here have also found the presence of 25 leopards.
“Two weeks ago, a tiger took an adult ox of dairy farmer Guruswami. Over 40 families were into dairy farming in Gavi earlier. This has reduced to three or four now. Their cattle can also be taken away by wild animals any time,” said Chandrakumar, a youth from Gavi.
“Earlier, our villagers had goats. But these wild beasts can smell the goats from afar and they would take them easily from our houses. Tigers and leopards come to our village in the night and early morning,” said Chandrakumar.“Now, cow milk is becoming a rarity for us. We are not able to give cow milk even to our children these days,” said Manikandan, a villager. Meanwhile, forest officials said they have started seeing tigers and leopards during daytime as well in and around Gavi now a days.