Issuing shotguns to farmers facing crop pests resumesView(s):
By Kasun Warakapitiya
The Government has decided to resume issuing shotguns to farmers who want to deal with potential damage to their crop by wild animals.
Issuing of shotguns had been stopped before the coronavirus pandemic spread in Sri Lanka
Farmers have for long raised the issue of crop damage by monkeys, porcupines, giant squirrels, and peacocks.
The State Minister of Defence Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon told the Sunday Times that the Government has decided to resume issuing firearms to farmers. He added that they have already issued a circular notifying the district secretaries calling for applications, carrying out interviews reviewing eligibility and making recommendations.
He said it was decided to revise issuance of firearms to farmers according to the extent of farmland. Earlier, farmers who had farmland exceeding 2.5 acres were issued a license for firearms, but now farmers growing on five acres or more would be given licences.
“We have already issued the circular notifying the district secretariats that they have started to issue firearms to farmers. They have to collect information and review the eligibility and submit documentation of farmers who are applying,’’ he said.
He said the ministry started the process in May. Firearms will be issued by July.
Mr Tennakoon said priority is being given to issue guns to farmers who have over five acres and plan to provide them later to those who have smaller plots.
The Kurunegala District Secretary R.M.R Ratnayake said farmers who have more than five acres would be eligible to apply for a single barrel shotgun.
Farmers should fill an application and confirm their identity and extent of farm land of five or more acres, and give information on crop damage risk. Recommendations will be sent to the Defence Ministry.
He said they are also considering issuing firearms to farmers who have more than two acres by estimating the variety of crops and the damage caused by wild animals.
Prof Buddhi Marambe who moderated meetings of experts to find solutions for reducing crop damage by wild animals said HARTI published a report based on their discussions, “Conflict between Farmers and Wildlife” after consultation and handed it to the Agriculture Minister in March.
All stakeholders who took part in the meetings came to an understanding that the population of wild animals which damages crops needs to be controlled using scientific methods.
Prof Marambe said the report had mentioned sterilisation by non-invasive methods such as use of hormones and culling. He added that feeding of animals, dumping of garbage as well as human activities attract animals to human habitations and farmland.
According to well-known toque macaque expert Prof. Wolfgang Dittus, who lives in Sri Lanka said that macaque densities are found in coconut plantations and other very localised spots such as town garbage dumps, hotels, roadside picnic areas, residential areas where macaques are enticed by inadvertent access to human-sourced food, or are purposely fed by well-meaning pilgrims, tourists, and households.
Stopping people from feeding monkeys, and littering would help reduce the monkeys from being drawn to human habitation and to farm lands, he said.
The Ministry of Agriculture which proposed to ship 100,000 Toque Macaques to China has not pursued it further.
Ministry secretary Gunadasa Samarasinghe told the Sunday Times: “We are awaiting the response from the Chinese embassy. Without the information of the company we are not sending the monkeys.’’
The ministry decided to check the background of the Chinese company after heavy criticism by environmentalists.
Mr Samarasinghe also said ways of scientifically controlling pest animals are being discussed.
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