RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR
One of the major groups of farmers in Goa has stated that it is against the classification of peacocks as vermin, even though the national bird causes much damage to their crops, just as the state forest department maintained that the damage caused by peacocks to crops could be ignored, if one takes into consideration the role of peacocks in the ecological cycle.
It may be recalled that the government had recently contemplated declaring peacocks as vermin or ‘nuisance animal,’ thus making it easier to cull these birds. However, the stern opposition for the same from many quarters made the government rule out the possibility of declaring the national bird, a vermin.
Rohan Joshi, a progressive farmer from Bicholim taluka and member of the Progressive Farmers of Goa, a group of local farmers, said that peacocks generally eat everything which is germinating. “If we sow a seed or plant a sapling, then the peacocks will eat the seed as soon as it starts sprouting or eat the sapling when fresh leaves start growing from it,” he said, adding that paddy and vegetables form favourite food of peacocks.
A highly placed official of the state forest department told this daily that peacock is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which deals with birds, besides mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, insects and so on. “In fact, even if the peacocks are found to be causing damage to the crops, one should not forget that they eat insects like locusts, grasshoppers, etc and therefore, also protect the crops, thus maintaining the ecological balance of life forms,” he added.
Joshi, acknowledging this observation said that during the past one decade, there has been a drastic fall in the number of snakes existing on his farm. “The peacocks are controlling the snake population,” he admitted. The official of the forest department also said that even though peacocks cannot be harmed, they can be kept in the zoo, provided the Central Zoo Authority of India permits the same. “However, there are several guidelines to be followed before any peacock is kept in a zoo,” he added. The official, however, expressed inability to point out the number of peacocks existing in the state.
Meanwhile, Joshi maintained that constructing fences around the crops or vegetables that are grown in a farm is totally ineffective as the peacocks often fly over it. “This, however, could be prevented if the cultivation is undertaken in a greenhouse, which means additional higher expenditure for the farmers,” he noted.
Speaking about the greenhouses, although the agriculture department has subsidies for polyhouses, they are not under one roof. These subsidies are offered on erecting a greenhouse. However, neither there is control over their pricing, nor the polyhouse sellers have their offices in Goa.
Stating that the damage caused to the crops by peacocks is not a localized problem but suffered by farmers from all cultivating talukas, Joshi said that this problem also exists in other states, but the area of cultivation in those states being very large as compared to their peacock population, the intensity of such damage is minimal. He further said that peahen lays 7 to 8 eggs, twice every year, and even after considering 50 per cent survival rate of the peachicks, the population of peacock grows substantially.
Joshi also said that unlike wild boars, the peacocks arrive on farms during day time and are afraid of the loud sounds. “Therefore, we can only make loud sounds, say by bursting crackers or shouting at them and drive them away,” he concluded, while maintaining that a middle-of-the-road solution needs to be provided by the government, wherein the peacocks are not hurt, and the crops too are protected.
Ironically, the department of tourism is in the process of promoting avitourism, an emerging sub-sector of the nature-based tourism industry, where tourist travel motivations are focused around bird watching.