Over the past several years, Mohammad Shafi Bhat has gained popularity among people in central Kashmir’s Budgam district for his daredevil acts while rescuing animals in populated areas.
Hailing from Pingyara Khag area of Budgam district, he works as a contractual helper in the Department of Wildlife Protection at Beerwah for the past seven years. He has taken part as a daredevil rescuer in 30 major operations.
Known for his unique ‘cable trap’ operations, Bhat told Rising Kashmir that so far he has participated in 30 wildlife operations in Budgam district and has tranquilized 26 leopards and 6 bears.
About cable traps, he says it is a unique technique of capturing animals in Kashmir. “In this technique, I use a bike chain, two clutch cables, tube rubber, and some wooden pieces. When the leopard passes over it, he gets trapped,” Bhat said.
Following the financial crisis at home, Bhat could study 10th class and thereafter had to work as an electrician to manage the household chores.
“I was an electrician by profession, but since my childhood I have been inclined towards daredevil activities. In the year 2014, I captured a leopard in my village who tried to maul children,” he said, adding that “it was a life-changing experience.”
Bhat, popular by his nickname ‘Shabir Bhat’ says that following the incident, the Wildlife Department approached him and offered him a contractual job. “But before joining the department, they gave me a challenge to capture another leopard in Beerwah in the next 15 days who was roaming in residential areas.”
“I captured the leopard within 11 days in the Beerwah area without caring about my safety. Although it was not that difficult but surely a risky assignment,” he said, adding that the incident made him popular among the people.
Bhat says following that incident, which he says was a turning point in his life, capturing animals has become his passion.
“Last year also Budgam reported many man-animal conflict incidents, because of its topographic conditions and dense forest nurseries in residential areas,” he said.
About risks in capturing animals, Bhat says it is a dangerous job and not everybody’s cup of tea.
He hopes that that department will regularise his services keeping in view the difficult assignments he has performed.