Bear menace in apple orchards of Himachal


Shimla (Sep 13)

Himachal Pradesh is known for its widespread apple orchards and high quality apple produce. But the imbalance between the flora and fauna has reached to such magnitudes that wild animals and birds like monkeys, bears, parakeets, bats and crows are now posing great threat to the high value apple crop.

The skyline apple belt of Himachal in areas like Narkanda, Kotgharh and Jubbal-Kotkhai are under a thick cover of Deodar trees with an abundant presence of wild bears which are not only a threat to apple orchards but also to human life. Wild bears are carnivorous and villagers find it difficult to chase the bulky and scary beast away.

The bears easily climb onto apple trees to eat the ripe fruit. Also the fruit laden branches are lowered to such an extent that they become easily accessible to the wildlife. Apple growers in villages like Reog, Takoon, Jadoon, Dhala have all been victimized by this growing menace.

Talking to Himvani, Kanta Rajta, an Apple farmer from Dhala hamlet described how four trees in her orchard were destroyed by bears in a single day. She lamented that not only do the trees get damaged but there is loss of the high quality crop too. Moreover, an apple tree usually has a gestation period of about 4-5 years before it starts bearing fruits. The loss therefore is manifold. One lost tree amounts to an average loss ranging anywhere between Rs. 10,000 – Rs 15,000 in a single season. The loss for its entire life span is very difficult to assess, she pointed out.

Sunder Lal, another farmer from Reog village had a similar story to tell. Bears had grounded almost half dozen trees in his orchard. Similar concerns were voiced by many other farmers who were expecting good returns from their orchards thus taking away the shimmer from this golden business offering high rate of returns otherwise.

Parakeet is another threat to the ripe fruit which is still not picked from the trees. The birds leave the fruit inedible for human consumption by rupturing the skin with their beaks.

According to Horticulture department, about 25 percent crop is destroyed by wild animals or is rendered inedible during transportation. The farmers have to bear the brunt of the situation along with high packaging and transportation cost of each apple box. All this eats into their profit margin. The problem needs immediate attention so that apple farming does not lose its sheen as a profitable venture.

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