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Human-animal conflict: 32 dead, 498 injured in four years across Kashmir

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Srinagar: Thirty-two people were killed in different incidents of human-wildlife conflict in the last four years across Kashmir.

Wildlife Department figures accessed by The Kashmir Monitor reveal that man versus animal conflict has claimed the lives of 32 persons since 2017. Similarly, 498 persons have got injured in the last four years in the region.

 

Human-wildlife conflict refers to an interaction between wild animals and people and resultant negative impact on people or their resources, or wild animals or their habitat. Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) occurs when wildlife requirements overlap with those of human populations, creating costs both to residents and wild animals.

Of late, the valley has seen a spike in such incidents. This can be gauged by the fact that this year itself, an adult leopard was rescued from the Baghemehtab area of Srinagar city after a five-day-long rescue operation.

In another incident, a mother bear along with its two cubs was rescued in the Buchwara area of Dalgate, and a leopard was rescued from a 150 feet poplar tree, on March 30 in Chadoora area of Budgam district.

“There are many reasons contributing to man-animal conflict. One of them being the change of agricultural land use, over the years in rural and semi-urban areas from traditional crops (paddy) to cash crops (fruits, mostly apple). This attracts bears which get good quality and large quantities of food in an orchard, rather than in the forest,” Wildlife Warden Shopian, Intesar Suhail told The Kashmir Monitor.

He said lack of buffer between forests and orchards is another factor.

“Orchards begin, where your forests end. We have over the years created pseudo forests at the fringes of real forests and animals get a good continuous cover and feel at home,” Suhail said.

Data suggests, in the Shopian division alone, a total of 142 incidents of human-wildlife conflict were reported since January 2021 with black bear (50), and leopard incidents (53), higher in number compared to other animals.

“Improper disposal of kitchen waste particularly by security forces camps, located in villages is also a reason for such incidents. This attracts dogs, which in turn attract leopards,” a wildlife expert, wishing not to be named, said.

A study titled, Casualties of human-wildlife conflict in Kashmir valley, India; a neglected form of trauma: our 10-year-study, reveals that in the human-animal conflicts, bear was the most common animal responsible for the human-animal conflict, followed by a leopard. Monkey and red fox attacks were less common and less lethal. Mortality was highest in leopard attacks.

“Human-wildlife conflict is certainly increasing. Most of the attacks due to bears and leopards are devastating. Most of the survivors of such attacks are left with some degree of disability and psychiatric disturbances. Maintaining ecological balance is the best way to control human-animal conflict,” the study published International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, concluded.  

Tahir Gazanfar, Wildlife Researcher stressed that “habitat degradation, land use transformation, and increasing densities of livestock grazing in protected  areas are also significant reasons behind the surge in these incidents. 

“Habitats outside wildlife protected areas don’t support enough food and prey base for bears and leopards. Almost 95 percent of human-wildlife conflict incidents occur outside protected areas in territorial forest areas,” Gazanfar said.