The recent incident in which a young girl of Ompora was mauled to death by a leopard in Ompora area of Budgam has shocked one and all. The wild life authorities have launched hunt to catch or kill the man-eater leopard and some reports suggested that it has been captured. Kashmir has a long history of man-animal conflict and as per official data, from 2006 till date nearly 240 people have lost their lives to this conflict while as some 4000 have sustained injuries. The humans too have killed several leopards and black bears that were found roaming in different human habitats. The conflict is a serious cause of worry for all as people, particularly those living near forest areas are under constant threat of falling prey to wild animals. The question is that what are the reasons behind this growing conflict and why the wild animals are leaving their safe abodes to venture into the human habitats?
Wildlife experts believe that the encroachment of forest areas, change in land use patterns, a shift from agriculture to towards horticulture, deforestation, developmental projects near forested foothills and establishment of security grids within forest areas have disturbed the life pattern of these animals who thus have started moving towards villages and other nearby areas for food. The thinning of buffer zones between the foothills of the forest and human settlements is one of reasons why wild animals foray into human habitats. As the people of these areas of shifted towards horticulture instead of agriculture activity like paddy, the fruit becomes an attraction for the wild animals as they are getting food readily near the forest fringe and have not to make much efforts to look for food scanning the far off forest areas. The fallen rotten fruit lying in orchards is one of the big attraction for black bear, say the experts. The presence of the camps of security forces near forests too has encouraged wild animals particularly the black bear to take to human habitats as the trash around these camps becomes a big attraction.
It is the responsibility of the wild life department to develop a mechanism that would ensure that the conflict is minimized. The department is the one that is supposed to protect the wild life but at the same time it has to ensure that steps are taken to ensure that wild animals don’t take to human habitats. Reports suggest that the said department lacks proper man-power and therefore it is responsibility of the UT administration to fully equip the department with men and also with all modern techniques that are used world over to avoid man-animal conflicts.