Borders between man and wildlife breaking down in Kashmir

January 23rd, 2009 - 11:51 am ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Jan 23 (IANS) A prowling leopard that strayed from the forests was trapped by wildlife officials near a north Kashmir village this week - yet another example of the growing conflict for space between humans and wild animals in the state.During the last fortnight alone, more than half a dozen wild animals including leopards and bears have been caught from inhabited areas bordering forests by the local wildlife department officials and the police for being returned to their natural habitat.

“As the natural habitats of the wild animals continue to shrink because of the growing human and animal population, the conflict for space and food becomes more evident with every passing day here,” said an official of the Jammu and Kashmir wildlife protection department.

Those living near the forests have been complaining of leopards, bears and jackals intruding into their villages for food and causing panic among the villagers.

“I have to ensure that my family and livestock are all indoors before dark. Howling jackals have so far lifted over two dozen of my poultry besides injuring some of my sheep,” said Sarwar Khan, a resident of Kulan village in north Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.

It is not only the far-flung hamlets that are facing the threat from nocturnal prowling wild animals. Leopards and bears have been causing concern to residents of many areas in the outskirts of summer capital Srinagar as well.

Two bear cubs and their mother were returned to the Dachigam National Park after they showed up in the city outskirts last autumn.

“A leopard also showed up in the densely populated Lal Bazaar locality of Srinagar city last year. It is becoming a regular feature to witness the wild animals intrude into inhabited areas for food in the Valley,” said the wildlife official.

“This is chiefly because the forest areas have shrunk due to the increase in the human population and encroachments into the habitats of the wild animals.

“But the other reason is that the population of wild animals has increased manifold during recent years.”

Habibullah, 67, a retired teacher who is a keen bird and animal watcher, told IANS: “I find there is an explosion in the population of jackals in the Valley. This is a grave concern for sheep and poultry breeders. Large packs of jackals descend on the villages and devour poultry and sheep.”

“We have to do more to preserve the natural habitats of the wild animals in the Valley, but if a certain species of them, like the jackals, become a serious menace as they are these days, there are laws which can be invoked to check their population,” said Bashir Ahmad, 43, a lawyer here.

As conservators and officials of the wildlife department busy themselves retrieving prowling wild animals from human habited areas to restore them to their natural habitats, the conflict between humankind and the animals for food and space continues to beg a permanent answer.

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