SRINAGAR – The past twenty-three years of conflict have had their heavy toll on Kashmir’s valleys and forest, forcing leopards, black bears and wolves to move down to residential areas and victimizing Muslims in the Indian administered valley who are already traumatized by the conflict.
“We have already suffered a lot during the twenty three year old turmoil and now are being victimized by wild beasts,” Mudasir Ahmad Khan of south Kashmir told Onislam.net, adding Kashmir has lost thousands of young people and now animals are going out of control because of unabated felling down of trees.
“It is very difficult to go out in fields alone as the wild animals like leopards, black bears and even wolves are roaming freely and one who is caught between these animals either got killed or injured,” he added.
In recent years, Kashmiri villages have become battle fields for the wild animals where helpless Kashmiris are either killed or injured by these wild beasts.
There is hardly any village of south and north Kashmir where these wild animals are not seen roaming in residential areas, a local resident of Vailoo Kokernag, who has already lost his nine-year-old son in a similar attack, told Onislam.net.
He added that wild animals, particularly leopards and bears, have unleashed terror in the valley as hundreds of people have lost their lives while the number of those injured cannot be assessed.
“What is required, the government should constitute special teams of wild life officials to relocate these wild animals into their natural habitations,” said Fayaz Ahmad Bhat of south Kashmir told Onislam.net.
“The police often come on spot after the incidents took place but they failed rescue the lives of people,” he said adding “The bears sneak into orchards, corn fields regularly at night and destroyed corps.”
Recently, a leopard killed three people in Doru Anantnag village. The leopard was killed later by the officials of the wild life department, Mohd Abass Sheikh said.
“My father died after he was torn into pieces by a bear near our house when he way on way to masjid for offering prayers”, Gh Hassan Kumar of South Kashmir told Onislam.net, adding later another villager was attacked and he was also injured.
Government’s wild life department paid us compensation for the death of our father, he added.
A retired official of wild life wishing not to named told onislam.net that these wild beasts were becoming a regular scene in summer and autumn, during which bears come down towards the crop fields while the leopards are seen round the year.
“Most of these wild animals are killed after they are caught thereby facing decline”, he added.
Falling victims to repeated attacks from these wild beasts, Kashmiris were left with hooting and beat drums as their only weapon to scare bears and force them to escape.
“Women or children cannot move freely amid attacks of Wild animals,” advocate Mudasir Khan told Onislam.net, adding recently a leopard ambushed a flock of a shepherd and killed two sheep’s and a horse in Hallan village of South Kashmir.
Terrified by the wild animals people of north and south Kashmir districts are living miserable life as dozens of people got trapped by the wild beasts roaming freely in villages and fields in search of food.
“We prefer to stay indoor instead to visit our fields “, Mohd Hussian of Daksum village of south Kashmir told Onislam.net, adding, more than fifteen people were killed during the last year.
The wild animals’ attacks were not limited to humans after their attacks forced farmers to harvest their crop before the season.
According to Abdul Rashid Sheikh, from Wild life Department for North Kashmir, areas like Lolab, sogam, Handwara, Kupwara, Rafiabad and Bandipora are more prone to leopards and Black bears attacks.
Meanwhile, Sopore and Zainageer villages are prone to Wolf attacks in North Kashmir where dozens of people, particularly children, were killed and hundreds were injured in Man Animal conflict.
“Sopore area is prone to wolf attacks as the nearby forest got cleaned during the militancy by forest smugglers,” he told Onislam.net adding “wolves start coming down to residential areas in search of food.”
Not only bears and leopards were launched regular attacks on Kashmiri villages.
He said wolves are more powerful than leopards as they bite humans like dogs and torn into pieces.
“In Kerri wolves killed about seven boys, though the officials of wild life department killed four wolves but threat is still there”, Wild life official Abdul Rashid told Onislam.net.
He added that in Kandi and Kichhama village about 14 people were killed in leopard attacks while in Bandipora district of north Kashmir about 17 causalities were reported so far.
“I was also attacked by a black bear when I along with other team members went to village Ruhama to catch the bear”, Rashid claimed adding “despite attack we killed the beast”.
Looking into the roots of the new phenomenon, Kashmiri officials stressed that the fast developmental activities in Kashmir, expanding of road networks through or nearby forests and conversion of forest land into agricultural nature, were among the key reasons behind it.
“The ratio of Man Animal conflict in Kashmir is highest ever in the world and during the past thirty years there has been tremendous increase in the animal related incidents in Kashmir,” Manzoor Ahmad Tak, former Chief Conservator Forests (Regional wild life warden Kashmir), told OnIslam.net.
“Both man and Animal share space and some share space conflict is there and it is global natural phenomenon,” he added.
Tak added that a dearth of employees at the wild life department was another cause of the attacks.
“All what the department is doing to minimize such type of attacks huge awareness programs are organized to make people aware of the do’s and don’ts,” he said.
“It is not only shaving of forests that can be held responsible for the increase in number of attacks but the developmental aspect cannot be ruled out,” he added.
What actually happened due to these encounters, the pregnant black bears and leopards come down to plains for their safety and deliver babies nearer to the villages, he claimed.
“When these black bears or leopards grow up they became immune to the local environment and prefer to stay there which results in the conflict.”
Another reason for the man animal conflict is fencing of Line of Actual control which divides India and Pakistan.
“The wild animals like Leopards, black bears and other animals used to migrate to other side of the border but due to the fencing they either got electrocuted or move down back to the villages on this side of the border,” Rashid, from Wild life Department, said.
The officials, however, confirmed that the department was making all possible efforts to inform people about the threats of wild animals in special camps.
“During these programs we educate people about do’s and don’ts,” Rashid, from Wild life Department, said.
“Main causes of increasing man-Animal conflict are that encounters which took place between the militants and security forces during these years disturb the wild life,” he added.
Mohd Anwar Sheikh, a retired forest official, said that wild animals were an asset to the nation who should not be killed.
He added that the government must take serious note of the issue and further strengthen the department, train officials and set up a separate research centers so as to courter the problem which can otherwise be more dangerous in coming years.
“What is important we have to relocate these animals in some of the forests or wild life parks,” Sheikh said.
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