Grass palatable to wild animals being grown by forest department

CHENNAI: The state forest department has launched a plan to reduce man-animal conflict by raising palatable grass in forest areas in 22 districts in the state. The grass, liked by wild animals, will be raised in areas where the invasive species of plants were removed.
Forest secretary Supriya Sahu told the TOI that in many areas cattle grazing and the spread of invasive species had affected the growth of palatable grass.
This is one of the reasons for wildlife such as elephants and Indian Gaur straying into human habitations, resulting in conflict. When the grass is regrown in the wooded areas, it can to a great extent reduce the straying of wildlife into human habitation, she said.
A team of researchers from the Forest College and Research Institute, Mettupalayam in Coimbatore, headed by K Baranidharan, head of the department of forest products and wildlife have been chosen to train the forest foot soldiers (rangers, foresters, and guards) on how to raise the grass in the wooded areas. Baranidharan said their team has identified 10 species of palatable grass, which would be amenable to herbivores such as Asian elephants and Indian Gaur.
The 10 species of grass were once found commonly in many forest areas at an elevation of 300 metres to 500 metres from the mean sea level. The grass did not grow due to unregulated cattle grazing and the spread of invasive species. This in turn forced the herbivores to move closer to human habitations in search of feed. His team had imparted training to 200 forest foot soldiers on raising techniques of the grass in forest areas, he said.
Chief project director of Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project I Anwardeen said raising of palatable grass in forest areas had been launched as a pilot project in 22 districts.
An indirect benefit of this programme is the reduction in the number of incidents of injuries or death of humans in human-animal conflict-prone areas. Secondly, with the increase in the growth of palatable grass, the prey base will improve. This in turn will increase the carnivore’s prey base, he said.

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