Umaiser Gul Ganai
Srinagar, Jan 5: Even though the incidents of man-animal conflict have shown a steep fall in Kashmir, the rising incidents of movement of wild animals into the residential areas in the Valley’s many districts remains a cause of concern for the wildlife department.
Figures accessed, reveal that a minor-girl from Central Kashmir’s Budgam district was among 39 persons mauled to death across Kashmir.
Figures suggest that in 2017, eight persons were killed by wild animals, 11 were killed in 2019 five in 2020 and nine in 2021. As far the injuries, year 2017 saw highest number of injures at 120 followed by 83 in 2018, 85 in 2019, 87 in 2020 and 57 in 2021.
Data reveals that year 2021 registered highest number of deaths at nine since 2017.
Despite the fact that deaths and the injuries due to the man-animal conflict has come down in the past five years in Kashmir’s major towns like Pulwama, Shopian, Ganderbal, Budgam and even Srinagar, the concern for the wild life department remains the increased movement of wild animals into the residential areas. Officials said that the movement of wolves, leopards, tigers, black bears, monkeys in the residential area of Kashmir towns have shown an increased trend, which was a cause of worry for the wild-life department.
Chief Wildlife Warden J&K Suresh Kumar Gupta said that in the UT, four animals are in conflict with the humans—leopard, black bear, snake and monkey. “Snake and monkey related incidents are reported in Jammu region, leopard and black bear related conflict is more in Kashmir region,” he said, adding that the conflict increased due to the population expansion in areas close to forest and wild life sanctuaries.
He said conflict takes place due to the human intervention into the habitat of wild animals. “We have already issued do’s and don’ts. We have urged people to venture to areas close to forests in groups and avoid going into the forest areas along with sticks and lights,” he said.
He, however, said due to lack of manpower, at some places it becomes difficult to reach the spots on time where wild animals make their entry. “To address their issues, we have set up joint control rooms with the Forest department in districts and zones. This has been done because of the fact that we have only 600 people as our staff in entire J&K,” he said.
He said during snow fall, wild animals like black bears face dearth of food and it was because of that the animal comes out. “Usually bears used to go into hibernation in winters but due to climate change, there is a behavioral change among behavior of bears that pushes them out of forest areas,” he said, adding that people shouldn’t attack wild animals and wait for wildlife officials who are trained to tranquilize the animal.
He said deaths of humans in man-animal conflict have decreased considerably. “We have procured the latest equipment to tranqulize animals besides vehicles have also been added to the fleet. We have also focused on plantation and adding availability of fruit etc in the forest area and in sanctuaries,” Gupta said.
Senior Scientist and Head of Wildlife Science Division at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Science (SKAUST)-Kashmir Dr Khursheed Ahmed said that there are many reasons for man-animal conflict especially that of leopards and black bears. “These animals have come out of their natural habitat. This is called habitat shifting. They have adapted to live in human dominated landscapes because of the easy food availability,” he said.
He said that there is no scientific evidence to prove that their population has increased. “But some facts show that the population of leopards and black bears have increased which has led to the man-animal conflict,” Dr Khursheed said. He said conversion of paddy lands into orchards is also one of the main reasons for attracting black bears into residential areas. “Fruit is major attraction for black bears especially in autumn. The bears want to eat as much fruit as possible before going into hibernation,” he said, adding that “bears become voracious fruit eaters in autumn.” “This is the main reason why such man-animal conflict incidents take place in autumn,” he said.
About the decrease in deaths and injuries, he said that incidents have increased. “There is a lot of awareness compared to the past few years. The wildlife department has set up control rooms now to deal with the entry of wild animals into residential areas,” he said.