Locusts enter Panna National Park in central India

By Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

As Indian farmers battle locust attacks in several states, swarms have also hit the Panna National Park in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh for the first time. Panna, which means emerald in English, is a popular tourist destination due to its famed tigers and the picturesque Ken river.

The state’s other national parks, including the world famous Bandhavgarh, may also witness locust swarms. Already, an alert has been issued in Bandhavgarh about a possible locust attack.

“We had received a warning from the agriculture department. They told us beforehand that locust swarms will enter Panna. When the locusts arrived, we tried to divert them by blowing horns of cars. We also tried to chase the locusts away through the means of smoke in the forest edges,” said Panna national park deputy director Jarande Ishwer Ramhari.

As it was for the first time, we have to evaluate the damage, but it not much, he added. “Locusts feed on grasses and leaves, and thus, reduce the availability of grass and green leaves for herbivores. So, it affects indirectly.” Another swarm may also come at some other time. As of now, Panna has been hit, but Bandhavgarh has also received an alert about invasion, Ramhari said. But locusts also change direction with wind.

Deepak Yadav, a forest guard at Panna, said one swarm of locusts arrived on May 24 and another on May 26.

Locust watch of the Food and Agriculture Organization said as of May 26, at least one swarm had reached the northeast of state capital Bhopal, which is about 400 km from Panna. Much of these movements were associated with strong westerly winds as a result of cyclone Amphan in the Bay of Bengal, it said.

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