Kochi, September 13

Most people keep a distance from Biju Raghavan, a 45-year-old plantation worker in Udumbanchola in Kerala’s Idukki district. And they may be excused because he carries a swarm of wriggling snakes with him. But a closer look reveals that the serpents are realistic-looking rubber fakes.

Raghavan has been putting to use these dummy rubber snakes to chase away a destructive army of monkeys that descend on his cardamom crop standing on 10-acre plantations.

“It was my mother who floated the idea to get rid of the monkey menace. I, too, had noticed that the armada had kept a distance after stumbling on the carcass of a snake in the garden,” Raghavan told BusinessLine.

“I decided to test the rubber dummies on the ground and ordered one online. I deployed it strategically in the line of sight along the route usually taken by the invading army on all fours to access my cardamom garden. It appeared to work, and surprised me no end how I had found out the simplest way to keep the marauding invaders away,” he says.

Delighted with the success, Raghavan ordered nearly 200 such rubber snakes from Amazon and Flipkart at ₹350 for a bunch of five, hanging them on branches of the cardamom plants. Now, other plantations in the area, too, are trying out his method.

Snake prank

But prices of the dummy snakes have surged on the rising demand created by Raghavan’s ‘jugaad’. And funny incidents have happened at the plantation with workers, mistaking the dummies for real snakes and trying to ‘beat them to death.’

C Sadasivasubramaniam, Secretary, Kerala Cardamom Growers Union, said that monkey menace, civet cat damage and wild boar attacks are on the rise in the plantations. Civet cat damages are basically on the cardamom berries as they usually come to eat tender cardamom capsules and also damage the production shoots. He pegged the loss at ₹25,000 per acre in plantations due to wild animal attacks.

SB Prabhakar, Chairman, Association of Planters of Kerala, said monkey menace is becoming a major problem in plantations and the government should take some serious steps to find a permanent solution. Wild boar attacks are also on the rise due to an explosion in their population. This can be controlled by culling, as the Forest Department is now permitting.