Heavy snowfall upsets Kashmir wildlife

March 2nd, 2008 - 10:03 am ICT by admin  

By Binoo Joshi
Jammu, March 2 (IANS) Many rare animal and bird species have recorded a population increase in Jammu and Kashmir over the years, but heavy snowfall this winter has affected wildlife adversely. Wildlife warden Nasier Ahmad Kitchloo said here that several hundred birds and animals - including some rare species - had been affected by the “unprecedented snowfall” last month.

“Our department swung into observing wildlife behaviour and noted that several hundred pheasants, leopards, wild cats and other small mammals had been affected,” he said.

The beautiful and reclusive Himalayan pheasant has been forced by the snowfall to move close to villages.

“Hundreds of pheasants of different types have come down to human habitations. There is a possibility that people might have caught them or even killed them. Our men are on the job to rescue the beautiful birds from captivity.”

He said when snow falls, the wings of pheasants become heavy, so they cannot fly and just loiter around. Then the glare caused by sunshine causes a blinding effect and they stray into human habitations in search of food.

Experts point out that Kashmir got a “good” snowfall in 1992, after which there was a dry spell for a few years. It also snowed heavily in 1996 and 2005 but February 2008 was the heaviest.

“This leaves a confusing impact on fauna,” Kitchloo said.

Other affected animals are leopards, wildcats and small mammals. These animals have also come down to lower altitudes and leopards have caused damage in terms of killing or maiming people and lifting cattle.

“So far two people have been killed, five injured and over a dozen cattle lifted by these leopards.”

In some remote mountainous areas, the administration had got villages evacuated during snowfall earlier this month for fear of avalanches.

“In some cases the leopards used these abandoned houses as shelters,” said the official. “Now when these people are going back they are making these animals captive and might go for their illegal trade as well,” Kitchloo said.

The department has fanned out to rescue and release such animals.

“We have got four wildcats and three leopard cubs rescued so far. Two wildcats that had fallen ill are under treatment while others have been released,” he said.

While the wildlife population has decreased the world over in conflict areas, it has increased considerably in Jammu and Kashmir, Kitchloo said.

This, he said, was because all licensed guns were required to be deposited at police stations when militancy set in. Second, no hunter would go deep inside a forest for fear of militants or getting caught in crossfire.

According to the official, “The population of Hangul (the famous red deer of Kashmir) has gone up to 300 in 2006 from slightly over 100 in 1990.”

There were about 800 Himalayan black bears in 1990. By 2007 the number went up to 3,000.

The musk deer population increased from 300 in 1990 to about 2,800 in 2007, the Pir Panjal markhor - a member of the mountain goat family - were about 100-odd in 1990 but increased to about 500 in 2007.

Similarly among birds, Kitchloo said, rare species like pheasants and black partridge have registered a 50 percent increase in population.

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