A serious and growing concern of human-animal conflict in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has resulted in a loss of scores of human lives besides threatening the long-term survival of some of the wildlife species such as leopards and bears.
As per an official data, in the year 2022 ,10 people, including five children, were killed in northern parts of Kashmir due to wild animal attacks. During these encounters three leopards, officially declared as 'man eaters' were also killed.
While talking to Rising Kashmir, Rashid Naqash, Regional Wildlife Warden Kashmir said that year 2022 saw several children becoming a soft target of leopards at several places including Uri subdivision of Baramulla.
"The incidents of human animal conflict are occurring . It has not gone up this year as There were more such encounters a decade back," Rashid Naqash said.
To mention, in 2012-13, at least 32 people were killed and 369 were injured, while as in 2021-22 around 10 deaths and 141 injuries have been reported during the man animal conflict encounters..
According to Rashid Naqash, the best way to subside such incidents was for farmers, orchardists and individuals who live nearby forest areas, to adhere strictly to the wildlife department's advisories.
The few causes of human-wild conflict, he continued, include "poor waste management, encroachment on forest land, dumping of garbage in open fields, unwanted movement of children in forest areas and the paucity of food for wild animals in forest areas.
He further added "If people follow the advisories issued by the wildlife department in letter and spirit, we can minimize the incidents to a great extent."
Wild animals bearing the brunt:
According to experts, the confrontations between humans and wild animals may eventually lead to the extinction of several species as a result of defensive and retaliatory killing.
The official data compiled by the Department of Wildlife Protection Jammu and Kashmir regarding the deaths of wild animals, reveals that around 44 leopards died naturally or in retaliation between 2011 and 2022.
Seven additional leopards were killed with official approval. Nine leopard cub deaths as well as four leopard cat deaths were noted over the time frame.
The same data estimates that 141 black bears, 12 bear cubs, and 7 brown bears had been killed, respectively.
Children fall prey to wild animals
In 2022 , more than 30 incidents of man-animal conflict were reported from north Kashmir, dozens suffered injuries while 10 people, including five minors, lost their lives.
"In 2022, we have lost 5 children to wild animals while one was injured in north Kashmir," he said.
Putting Hand In Lion's Den:
A wildlife official told Rising Kashmir that one of the main causes of the rise in wild animals into populated areas is the dwindling buffer zone between forests and human populations.
According to experts, increased human-animal conflict has been brought on by shifting land use patterns, deforestation, and development projects constructed near or inside of forests.
"Wild animals are compelled to move outside their habitat ranges to hunt when a forest region is invaded because it limits the amount of natural food or prey that is otherwise accessible to these animals. There is no disagreement here, rather, we are taking a risk," a wildlife expert said.
He said that the buffer zones have vanished while open paddy fields have been converted into orchards or human settlements.
"When the boundaries between human habitations and forests reduce, such conflicts are bound to happen,” he added.
Wildlife warden north Kashmir Mohammad Maqbool Baba told Rising Kashmir that in order to mitigate the human wildlife conflict, the department is using several techniques.
"In our advisories through print and electronic media or for that matter social media, we keep on appealing to parents not to let their children and women roam freely and always be accompanied by the elders," he said.
Maqbool added that the people in forest areas are advised to avoid going to forests, especially during mornings and evenings as it is peak activity time for the leopards.
The department also keeps on issuing directives for the orchardists to dump the apple waste, rotten apples in a pit as the black bears have a great power of smell and rotten apples attract them towards habitation which may result in human wild conflict.
"We also use cages and tranquilizers to catch wildlife animals whenever they are a threat to the public," Baba added.
Wildlife Trust of India:
In view of the increasing wildlife animal attacks in parts of north Kashmir, the Wildlife Trust of India- a wildlife conservation charity organization in India, dedicated to preserve and protect the natural world and its wild habitats, provided field gears and equipment to the Department of Wildlife Protection, North Division, Sopore.
Sameer Khizar, an official of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) , said that the step was taken in view of increasing human animal Conflict and to augment the human-leopard conflict mitigation work in Boniyar, Lachipora and its adjoining conflict zones of district Baramulla.
Sameer said that the gears and equipment include four tents, five camera traps, six torches and twelve sleeping bags.