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Keeping the boars at bay

Wildlife: It was almost 11:30pm and Lungten Dem, 44, was close to dozing off when she heard a friend calling.

She knew why.

Pulling aside the bamboo mat that serves as a door to the temporary watch-house in the middle of her paddy fields, she shouted at the top of her voice. It is pitch dark and raining outside.

That was to chase away wild boars, she believed, were heading to her fields. “My friends chased the boars from their fields and they’re informing me,” Lungten Dem said.

Since it was raining heavily, she could not go out into her fields to check and stayed put in front of the watch house shack.

“I spend most of the nights here, as I can hear the boars entering my fields,” she said. “If I’m inside it’s difficult to hear.”

That night she had gone inside the shack, as it was raining and she was tired.

This season, wild boars have twice rampaged through her 70 decimal paddy field, damaging substantial portions of the crop.

Sitting under an umbrella tied close to the opening of the watch house, Lungten Dem said much of the hard labour her family of six put into the paddy field is lost to the boars. “I feel like killing myself when I can’t guard the crops,” she said.

Three hundred metres away, Choki Wangmo is shouting at the top of her voice and boasting how she managed to chase away the boars that had just entered her fields. “If I didn’t wake up on time, I could have lost my crops,” she said.

Choki Wangmo said there were eight to nine boars in the pack that tried to enter her fields.  She claimed she counted them by the light of her dim torchlight.

As the valley resonated with echoes of people shouting and talking to each other to chase the boars away, it did not feel like it was midnight.

Yangchey, 22, pulled the bamboo pitched in front of her wooden shack.  Her 17-month old son slept in the hut while she stayed outside. “I go inside only to feed him,” she said. “It’s difficult to chase the boars, once they get inside the fields.” Her husband and brother-in-law guard the crop from either side of the field.

Further up, Kunza Om, 71, sat by the light of a kerosene lamp, lamenting about her paddy ravaged earlier that night.  “My daughter and I were having dinner when the boars entered the fields,” she said.

Her fields, located amidst an encroaching forest, have been ravaged more than five times this year.  Kunza Om estimates that would not be able to harvest even a quarter of what she sowed. “The boar problem had worsened in recent years,” she said.

All farmers of the nine villages in Nub Chutoe area of Trongsa have to guard their crops every year.

Villagers of Gagar, Karshong, Jongthang, Pang, Bemji, Kaba, Daba, Simphu and Dengzhing started guarding their paddy crop by mid August until late October.

Kunza Om blamed the men in her village for being unable to set traps and snare the boars. “The animals aren’t scared of people anymore. The boars hide near the fields,” she said.

More than 29 men from the village took the battle to the forest last month and tried to chase the boars away, but they were back in the fields the same night.

Farmer Lungten Dem said it would be better to leave the farm and work as construction and roadside workers.

Yangchey, 22, looks outside while her 17-month son sleeps inside the watch house

“I hate the farming season,” Sangha Lham said, adding that her sisters berate her every time the boars rampage the fields.

Farmers also fence their fields with bamboo mats, planks and even use cloth, build scarecrows and perform rituals to keep away the wildlife.

Villagers said the bamboo fences they use are too weak for the wild boars. “We need meshed wire fencing,” a farmer said.

When dawn broke, Lungten Dem walked around her fields.  Her shouts had managed to keep away the boars for another night.  She then walked home with friends, who narrated how boars rampaged through their fields.

By Tashi Dema, Trongsa

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