In central Kashmir, the rodent porcupine is devastating orchards
through Zakia Qurashi
SRINAGAR: The increase in the porcupine population in karewas Budgam and Pulwama belts and adjacent areas created a state of panic among the farmers. These large rodents with thorns or prickles peel the bark off tree trunks and leave them exposed. Farmers have complained that these creatures damage apple orchards. Even in some places they also damaged almond trees and saffron fields.
Qayoom Ahmad Dar, an arborist from the Zaloosa area of Budgam, lamented the damage to the trees. He has 28 canals of orchard land. “Last year they also damaged the crop, but this year the damage is immense. There has been an increase in the population of these rodents,” he said. “Due to the snow, we were unable to properly control these rodents.”
Another farmer, Ali Mohammad, a resident of Chrar i Sharief Budgam, said he was only destroying almond trees but is now attacking apple trees and other crops.
“Most of the land is cultivated with saffron, but this rodent destroyed everything by digging holes and eating bulbs. They even uproot vegetables from the ground.
Dr Aaqib Hussain, a wildlife researcher, said these rodents are often seen in winter. “Due to the scarcity of food during the winters, they are forced to venture outside their home range in search of food. This is why people see them more.
Hussain said they are barely visible in summer and are mainly active in the Awantipora, Budgam and Pulwama belts. “His favorite food is almonds. He eats the bark of the tree. In the Quil area, these rodents have caused significant damage.
Porcupines, according to details from open sources, are large rodents with coats of sharp spines or guard hairs that protect them from predation. With an average age of over 25 years, these rodents are the main survivors of the wild food chain. In Jammu and Kashmir, as in most South Asian countries, they have no use for human life.
What is interesting is that these porcupines love to eat the extremely nutritious inner bark of the tree and for this they remove the bark, thus weakening the plant which takes no less than a decade to come to fruition. .
Many farmers who life in Kashmir expressed disappointment at the Department of Horticulture for “not providing any assistance”. But, horticulture director Aijaz Bhat said they were in constant contact with farmers and raising awareness about the attacks. “We have already advised farmers to cover tree trunks with burlap sacks or use pepper spray or paint to protect their trees from these porcupines. We will create more awareness about this and provide them with all practical corrective measures to combat this,” Bhat said.
Director of Pulwama Horticulture, Mukesh Kumar, said that last year they had received various complaints of porcupine attacks. He said they did a damage assessment last year but have not yet done so this year. “We visited the areas and compiled a list of farmers whose orchards were damaged. We have also organized camps in the karewas belt of Pulwama to create awareness.
Karewas are highlands and mostly located in Budgam and parts of Pulwama. Usually, almonds and saffron were grown in these vast tracts of land.
Kumar said they usually advise people to cover trees with hessian and hessian sacks or netting so porcupines cannot attack them.
“In addition, there are rodent repellents that can be used to prevent attacks. We have also taken up the matter with the Wildlife Department to intervene in this regard,” Kumar said. “It is illegal under wildlife law to kill these animals. They set up cages to capture these animals as well. But they must eventually release them into the wild. Their management is a bit difficult.
The officer said that since there had been a lot of snowfall last year, the porcupines had run out of food. Thus, they caused more damage to the trees. “In the Karewa belts that border Budgam district, incidents of these rodents causing damage have been somewhat low.”
Meanwhile, regional wildlife warden Raashid Naqash said it was outside their mandate. “When someone approaches us, we only tell them what to do and what not to do.”
Porcupine attacks on orchards have been on a very low scale for years, but in recent years the incidents and costs have increased alarmingly.