Porcupines wreak havoc in Pulwama almond orchards; growers seeing their worst days yet

Porcupines wreak havoc in Pulwama almond orchards; growers seeing their worst days yet
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SHOPIAN: The presence of porcupines in Pulwama’s Karewa land has taken a heavy toll on almond trees in the area and consequently on the nut’s production. Locals said that the porcupine damages the bark on the trees’ trunks, resulting in the trees drying. Pollution in the area has also been increasing because many of the almond growers cover the tree trunks with polythene or with fertilizer packing.
Besides the slump in saffron cultivation, Pulwama now is facing its worst phase in almond growing as well. The Kashmiri almond was once famous throughout the world for its taste and quality.
In villages like Koil, Chandgam, Banderpora, Newa, Awantipora and many other hamlets, thousands of such damaged trees can be found. Muhammad Umar, a local from Koil, said that the trees orchardists left uncovered have been damaged by the porcupine. “The porcupine cuts the whole bark around the trunk and within a year, the trees dry and die,” he said, adding that the issue had been brought to the authorities’ attention, but no steps were taken about it by either the Horticuture Department or by the Wildlife authorities.
Locals from Newa said that many people in the area were dependent on almond cultivation and trade, but the presence of porcupines has literally left them without any option.
Javid Ahmad, another local from Newa, said the Karewa land was free from pollution previously, but once the porcupines started damaging the area’s almond trees, people started covering the tree trunks with polythene and packing material. This, according to him, has created massive pollution. “The quantity of polythene which is being used and thrown in the area has gone up, and the land which was once free of pollution has gotten the worst hit by these covers,” he said.
Kashmir Reader talked to many people in these areas, and they said that the origin of porcupines in the area is not old but has occurred since 2012. “Earlier, their number was low, and the damage they caused was also low, but now they have spread in the whole of the Kareva areas of the district,” Umar Mukhtar, another local, said.
Officials from the department have no clue how the porcupine arrived in the area but suggest people not cover the almond tree trunks with polythene and fertilizer packing as, according to them, it leads to fungal diseases. But for people here, there is no option but to turn to plastic.
Chief Horticulture Officer Pulwama Anil Gorkha told Kashmir Reader that his office has no information about the presence of porcupines in the area nor about the damage they cause. “I will seek a report officials, and if needed, the matter would be taken up with the Wildlife Department,” he said.