SOPORE, JAN 2: Mushtaq Ahmad Malik, who escaped death on November two last year in a bear attack at Tujjar Sharief village on the outskirts of Sopore, is so scared that he is not coming out of his house alone. He remains confined to a corner of his house and seldom goes out but another family member has to accompany him, his family members said.
Malik and three women were grazing cattle in nearby forest area when a black bear attacked them on November 2, 2017. Malik suffered multiple injuries as the wild animal attacked him across his nose and eyes damaging his face. He was treated at to Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences Soura for months together.
Man-Animal conflict according to officials is very old in Jammu and Kashmir but people seldom reported the attacks earlier.
In 2016, human-wildlife conflict claimed 8 lives in parts of North Kashmir, and 45 people were injured by animals. In 2017, according to the Wildlife Protection Department, Sopore, 9 people were injured and death of a girl was reported from Uri, Baramulla.
Earlier in the year 2014-2015 the figure of dead and injured was much higher than the current data. An official data procured by Kashmir Wire from Wildlife Department Sopore revealed that decrease in man-animal conflict in 2016 and 2017, thanks to awareness programmes and precautionary measures initiated by the department about man-animal conflict through print and electronic media, Mohammad Sadiq Mir, Wildlife Warden North Kashmir, Sopore said .
“The graph of man-animal conflict is going down for the last 2-3 years. Appearances of black bear have increased but attacks on humans have decreased. Deaths too have reduced in last few years as compared to earlier years. Even attacks have decreased but that doesn’t mean there is no conflict. Human beings intrude into the forest areas and the wild animals in search of food visit the human habitations. It is where the conflict arises,” Wildlife Warden North Kashmir told Kashmir Wire.
Mohammad Sadiq believes that the shrinking of buffer zones, a space between forest and human habitation is the main cause of man- animal conflict.
He said that 15 years back there was a vast space between forest area and the human habitation. With the increase of population, people started encroaching forest areas; the buffer zone squeezed which in turn increased the man -animal conflict. However, an increase in the population of black bear is seen a main cause in the man- animal conflict, he added.
According to him outside protective areas (wild life sanctuaries, nurseries) such episodes happen very less because animals have enough feed. “You can see only one per cent attacks.
These man- animal conflict stories mostly arise from non protected areas. In unprotected areas, they don’t find feed, so they visit villages and towns, orchards and there only happens man- animal conflict,” he said.
Officials in the department said that with a change in agriculture practices, the increase of man- animal conflict is evident. “Earlier we used to cultivate maize, wheat but nowadays we have turned our agriculture fields into orchards. That’s also a reason to man- animal conflict. From one orchard to another, the wild animal crosses villages and reaches towns and when it fears for its life, the wild animal attacks the humans,” the official said.
Asked if there is any dearth of equipments or manpower in the department, Mohammad Sadiq said that the department has state –of- the- art equipments available with them and control rooms at divisional and District levels which has also decreased the number of causalities and injuries of human lives.
“Whenever we get call, our men equipped with guns and tranquilizers reach to the area in rescue vans. We have special tranquilized guns, trained staff, we have special cages. So there is no such case of problem from our side. The concept of funds is very minuscule in our department. We don’t need funds but yes dearth of manpower is there. We engage local people whenever we need them for rescue purposes. We have to deal such incidents despite lack of staff,” Wildlife warden added.
In 2006 state government approved compensation with regard to man -animal conflict. Human lives lost in man- animal conflict are now being compensated by the government with a sum of Rs. three lakhs, up to Rs.1 lakh for grievous injuries and Rs.10,000 for minor injuries. Wildlife warden said that compensation has also made it easy for the department to check the man animal conflict, as people now report such incidents for seeking compensation.