Tackling human-wild animal conflict
The human-animal conflict is a new norm in Kashmir. The reports about these conflicts often appear in the media. The conflict has emerged as a big challenge to the related official agencies. As per official data as many as 118 people were killed and 1877 wounded in attacks by wild animals in the Valley during the past 10 years (from 2011). In the year 2020, as many as 10 deaths and 141 injuries by wild animals were reported in Kashmir. Only this year, at least three human deaths by the wild animals have been reported. Of them, the most recent incident occurred late evening on Friday (September 17) at Hari Pora Haran in Soibugh of Budgam district, where an eight-year-old boy was mauled to death by a leopard. This horrifying and unfortunate incident occurred around three months after a four-year-old girl was killed by a leopard on June 3, in the Ompura area of the same district. The mutilated body of the girl was recovered in the forest nursery about one kilometer from her house next day. It is not only humans but domestic animals too are falling prey to wild animals. However, such incidents are rarely reported though. On the intervening night of May 17 and 18 this year, ten sheep were killed in a leopard attack in Khaipora village of Khansahib tehsil of Budgam. Since the unfortunate incident in Ompura, wildlife department has captured as many as seven leopards in the same area; and presently three cage traps, to hook the life-threatening animals, have been set by the department in Ompura and the adjacent areas.
A deeper study of the issue indicates that from understaffed and ill-equipped Wild Life Department to human interference in habitats of wild animals there are so many issues responsible for the conflict. Experts say that the Wild Life Department gets the least attention by the authorities and as result it is understaffed. The employees of the department lack proper training and equipment. Besides, the human intervention in the original habitat of wild animals is disturbing these animals and forcing them towards human habitats resulting into the conflict. Experts say that the leopards have got urbanized on the 20 to 25 kilometer long stretch of the Karewa (Wodder) in Badgam over the years. Since this Karewa is vegetated, it gives required cover to the animals. Leopards don’t necessarily need huge jungles to live in. They would live anywhere subject some cover and food availability. The leopards living in the Karewa vegetation find their food easily in terms of dogs. The dog population is always growing in nearby areas due to the mismanagement of solid waste. That means these leopards have both the required things —the cover and food — available here.
The conflict is also triggered by the massive deforestation, construction of roads and infrastructure projects to the encroachment of wildlife habitats by humans. The greed and longing for more resources by humans have led to the loss of wildlife habitat. To ensure the safety of both humans and animals, we must stop the further destruction of forest areas and do away with diverting forest land for developmental projects. While people and the administration should avoid interfering with the natural habitat of wild animals, the Wild Life Department should be provided ample work force and modern technology so that the conflict is minimized. To monitor the movement of wild animals, the department should install CTV cameras in all potential areas and have a close communication with the populace there. The concerned department and common people should work hand-in-hand to ensure safety of both humans as well as wild animals.