Fri, 14 Mar 2003

Wild pig attacks plague S. Bengkulu rice farmers

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Groups of wild pigs are again destroying rice fields in South Bengkulu, but unlike last year the regency does not have the money to hire hunters to deal with the beasts, a local official said on Thursday.

"Reports from farmers about damage done to their rice fields by wild pigs continue to flow into our office," said the head of the regency's agricultural office, Mukhlis Ibrahim, as quoted by Antara.

There has not yet been an assessment of the damage, but he said reports of wild pig attacks had been received from nearly every rice-growing area of South Bengkulu, covering about 34,300 hectares.

He said the districts of Sukaraja, Seluma, Talo, Manna and Seginim, located in the middle of the regency, had been the most badly affected.

Wild pigs raid the rice fields mostly at night, eating unhusked rice and destroying the crops by trampling on them.

During the day the animals retreat to the forests that surround the rice fields, making it difficult to trap them.

"I have a rice field that was ready for harvesting, and it was destroyed by wild pigs two weeks ago," said Bastoni, a farmer in Sukaraja district.

Bastoni said he wanted the local administration to hire hunters to kill the pigs, suggesting that hunters from other provinces could also be recruited.

Last year, the regency dealt with the problem by paying people Rp 10,000 (about US$1.12) for every wild pig they killed.

Since the hunters only had to turn in the snout for payment, they also were able to sell the carcasses to zoos like Ragunan in Jakarta and Taman Safari in Bogor, which used the pigs to feed some of their animals.

Mukhlis said that over the course of 2002, the regency paid out some Rp 200 million for the killing of about 20,000 wild pigs.

"There were signs that the wild pig population declined after we provided incentives to hunt the animals. But we ran out of money fast because so many pigs were killed," he said.

The province of Bengkulu has its own pig hunting team, which must cover the whole of the province on its own.