Cattle grazing – a bane for the forests

Rampant illegal cattle grazing in reserved forests leads to habitat loss for wildlife, which furthermore leads to devastating man-animal conflict.

Cattle grazing can be regarded as a burning issue in forest conservation. Grazing is the cheapest way of feeding one’s cattle since it helps in decreasing the rearing cost of cattle. This has been a practice by farmers since time immemorial.

As per Indian Forest Act (1927), cattle-trespass is prohibited in the reserve forest throughout the country. Yet this practice continues unabated, with cattle grazers taking advantage of the lack of surveillance of inadequate numbers of field staff, despite the forest department’s efforts.  What is more shocking in this situation is the attitude of the people dwelling nearby the forests, who are not concerned about the spread of Foot and Mouth Diseases (FMD) & Anthrax. These are spread by the domesticated cattle to wild animals. Furthermore, because of cattle grazing in the forest, wild animals are suffering from food & water shortage. As a result, there is increased risk of habitat degradation.  Cattle movement in reserved forests also effects negatively on grass and foliage grown inside the forest. which means wild animals like gaur, deer, elephant and other herbivorous animals suffer due to lack or dearth of foods.

As a result, we often hear about conflicts between wild and domestic animals or also of wild animals and humans. The ever-increasing cattle grazing population and its encroachment into forest area may result in the loss of wild habitats.  There are many wildlife sanctuaries or reserve forests in India where grazing is prohibited. But cattle grazing in forests is yet to be banned in West Bengal.

In the present scenario of land and livestock management,  there is an urgent need to have strong policies on livestock grazing that are restrictive, rational and based on scientific principles. It is expected that the implementation of such policies through various promotional schemes sponsored by the government will lead to greater community involvement in managing grasslands, and thus save the habitat for endemic and non-endemic species in reserved forests all over the country.



Read also: Junglimericks: In the Crazy Wilds of India 

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About the Author /

Shiladitya Acharjee hails from Alipurduar. He is passionate about wildlife and conservation. He currently works as a butterfly enthusiast at Buxa Tiger Reserve.

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