Rise in man-animal conflict in Kashmir, rapid urbanisation to be blamed: Experts
By: Sheikh Suhail
Srinagar: Kashmir has witnessed a rise in cases of man-animal conflict in recent times, with experts blaming the interference of humans in wildlife habitats as the main reason for such incidents.
“Human-wildlife conflict has certainly escalated greatly in the past few years in Jammu and Kashmir,” regional wildlife warden, Kashmir, Rashid Naqash told PTI here.
He said from 2006 till the end of 2022, the man-animal conflict has claimed 242 lives and 2,940 people have been injured in such incidents.
The main reason behind the conflict is the interference of humans in the wildlife habitats, Naqash said.
He said this interaction has been there from time immemorial when the human population was much and the wild land was plenty.
“Conflicts between man and wildlife have risen significantly due to the changes in the wildlife habitat,” Naqash added.
“The human population grew, which builds pressure on wild habitats and spaces where these wild animals used to live. If we talk of the landscape in Kashmir, we see that this land space is a landlocked landscape because on one side we have Western Himalayas, and on the southern side we have Pir Panjal followed by the valley floor,” he said.
“This is a landlock, and here any change in land use classification definitely will have the consequences, and we have witnessed and recorded it scientifically from four decades that there has been a tremendous change in land use classification in the valley,” he said.
Before human intervention, all wildlands used to be under forests that are known as grazing land, but, now, it has been taken up for agriculture or horticulture use, he said.
These horticulture landscapes have either been grown on the fringe of the forests or inside them, he added.
The regional wildlife warden said that these changes in the wildlife habitat have invited casualties over the years.
While the conflict has escalated, the casualties came down last year, owing largely to awareness.
According to the statistics, in 2013 and 2014, the total number of deaths was 28, which declined to 10 in 2022.
“In 2013, we had 28 killings and 333 injuries. But, these numbers have gone down to 10 deaths and 89 injuries in 2022. If we correlate the resources available at that time to the present scenario, we did not have training available and the department capacity was also not apt to address such issues. Although the casualty number has gone down, the wildlife appearances have significantly gone up,” Naqash added.
However, he pointed out, child lifting cases by leopards in north Kashmir have been reported and were “recurrent”.
He said every interaction cannot be termed as conflict and there have been appearances of such animals in human habitation which are categorised under conflict but are not in the real sense.
“When they see passages, these animals often resort to their original corridors without harming any life or property,” he said.
Many wild animals such as leopards, black bears, and brown bears have adapted to live in human-dominated landscapes, Naqash said.
“Leopards are not restricted to jungles and have their territory now. These changes have made them often migrate to places where they can find a little shelter and food. Dogs are the main delicacies to them and they have developed a habit to urbanise, they feed and breed,” he said.
The department acts as soon as it gets an SOS call, but these conflicts are not restricted to any particular area and so the department cannot set up a team everywhere, he said.
“So, to manage such things and take appropriate steps, the department has established 22 rescue control rooms around the Kashmir landscapes that are available round-the-clock,” he added.
Detailing reasons for the escalation in the conflict, Wildlife Warden, Central Division, Altaf Hussain said the buffers between the human habitation and the forest areas have decreased.
“Our habitation areas, like the city here, have spread out and come close to the forests. The buffers have decreased. Food availability in urban or suburban areas has increased. Leopards get shelter easily in the form of dense vegetation, and abandoned plots, so, with the availability of proper shelter and food, the animal can easily change its areas,” he said.
Hussain said the animal does not know about the boundary, so, those who live close to forests, have to take precautions.
“But, they (humans) do not have to take steps themselves, rather call us,” he added.
Hussain said the department has round-the-clock station teams in high-conflict areas.
Naqash said with all the resources and training available, actions are prompt by the department to avoid any damages, but these are not long-term.
“Proper research on the changes in the habits of wildlife to further control is important. Strategies to balance this coexistence between humans and wildlife and awareness are equally important,” he said. (PTI)
Kashmir Images is an English language daily newspaper published from Srinagar (J&K), India. The newspaper is one of the largest circulated English dailies of Kashmir and its hard copies reach every nook and corner of Kashmir Valley besides Jammu and Ladakh region.