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Indian bishops urge govt to allow shooting of wild animals

Farmers should be allowed to protect themselves, they say after spate of human-wildlife conflict deaths
Forest officials transport a wild elephant which created trouble in Idukki district in Kerala April last year. The pachyderm, known for its love for rice and raids on homes, was released into a forest reserve.

Forest officials transport a wild elephant which created trouble in Idukki district in Kerala April last year. The pachyderm, known for its love for rice and raids on homes, was released into a forest reserve. (Photo: AFP)

Published: February 20, 2024 08:51 AM GMT
Updated: February 20, 2024 11:33 AM GMT

Catholic bishops have urged the government to tweak rules to allow the killing of wild animals that encroach onto human settlements after six people were killed recently in a southern Indian state.

“Prompt measures should be taken to devise policies allowing the shooting of wildlife that pose a significant threat to the lives and properties of citizens,” Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the regional Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) said in a Feb. 18 statement.

His appeal came after Paul Vellachalil, a resident in Wayanad district in southern Kerala, was killed after a herd of elephants attacked him on Feb. 16.

The 50-year-old was working as a guard at an ecotourism center in the district when he was trampled by a herd of elephants, according to local residents.

On Feb. 10, an elephant trampled to death 42-year-old Ajeesh Panachiyil outside his house in the same district. Both killings took the death toll due to wildlife attacks to six this year in Kerala’s Wayanad and Idukki districts where a sizable number of Christians work as farmers.

“Our farmers living on the periphery of forests are facing a tough situation,” said KCBC spokesperson Father Jacob Palakkappilly.

Some 910 people have lost their lives in Kerala due to wildlife in the past eight years, according to official figures.

Local people staged a massive protest after the death of Velachalil.

“It is necessary to take action to control wild animals, Cardinal Cleemis said in his statement urging the federal and provincial governments to amend wildlife protection rules.

“Over the past few years, man-animal conflicts have increased many-fold, Father Palackkappillly said.

“The main reason is laws that do not care about the welfare of human beings,” the priest told UCA News on Feb. 19.

India’s stringent Wildlife Protection Act bans the killing of wild animals and those who inflict harm on them will have to face a jail term ranging from three to seven years.

We want the government to amend “the required laws” granting farmers permission to shoot the animals that trouble them, Father Palackkappillly said.

“We are concerned about human life,” the priest added.

This problem can be solved to a great extent if the government takes initiatives to erect a protection wall, said Father Palackkappillly the priest.

The cardinal urged the government to compensate the families of victims.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has called for a high-level meeting in Wayanad for Feb. 20 to finalize measures to ensure the safety of residents.

Christians make up 18.38 percent of Kerala’s 33 million people.

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