Wild animals ‘infiltrate’ into residential areas

Bears don’t spare even militarized zones

ARIF SHAFI WANI

Srinagar, Nov 2: If a bear manages to ‘infiltrate’ into Kashmir’s highly militarized areas located far away from forests, it is enough to indicate that the civil habitations are not safe.
 Sources in the Wildlife Department said a bear had intruded into the Old Airport of the Indian Air Force at Rangreth last month, causing scare.  But before the bear could do any harm, it was captured and shifted to the Dachigam National Park 
 The spurt in the intrusion of bears into the residential areas in the Valley particularly near the Zabarwan, Sind and Lidder forests here has set the alarm bells ringing for the Wildlife authorities to prevent the incidents of man-animal conflict and loss of human life.
 While a boy was mauled by a bear in Rangil in Ganderbal district two days ago, half-a dozen people have been injured in attacks by the wild animals in less than a week. Though the wildlife authorities have killed a bear, captured at least 6 others and set up cages, the people residing near the forests continue to live under the fear of wild animals.

THE PROBLEM
 On Thursday a bear that was chased away by people after the animal mauled a 12-year old nomad Liyaqat Poswal of Rajouri while barging into his tent in Rangil Ganderbal. Before leaving the spot, the bear attacked Poswal’s mother Nazira Begum injuring her critically.
 A few days ago, officials said, they had to kill a bear when it barged into a house at Gratabal Zakura on the city outskirts and tried to attack the inmates including children.
 “Our attempts to tranquilize the bear proved futile. We had no choice but to shoot the bear otherwise it could have inflicted casualties,” said a Wildlife Department official, wishing anonymity. .
 In the past few days bears have entered several localities in Zabarwan forests including Telbal, Brein, Nishat and even the highly fortified Badami Bagh Cantonment. Another bear was recently caught near the gate of Raj Bhawan and inside the Royal Springs Golf Course at Chesmashahi here.
 In another incident the bear attacked and injured Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Dangroo of Kokernag Islamabad near the forest area of Nard Sangran.
 Officials said the presence of large number of people at the spot hampers the efforts to capture the bear. “Instead of giving the bear a safe passage, it has been observed that the people throw stones and chase them. This infuriates the bears as they feel threatened and get into attack mode. It is a challenging situation for us to deal with the situation” the official said.

REASONS

 Experts said with the onset of winter, the wild animals move into lower areas in search of food. They said as residential areas in the Valley are settled near the forest boundaries, it causes frequent incidents of man-animal conflict.
 “Bears have a strong sense of smell and the fruits stored or rotting leftovers in the orchards serve an attraction for them,” officials said.
 Incidentally, last year in this month, the bears started to intrude in the areas near the forests including Shuhama and Gulab Bagh. “The bears have become habitual for left-over fruit in the orchards in the fringes of the forests. We have been organizing awareness camps for the people including orchardists to abreast them about measures to prevent man-animal conflict. But the people are not adhering to our suggestions,” they added.

AIRPORT SCARE
 On September 29, panic gripped the Old Airport at Rangreth when a bear was spotted there. The Air Force officials immediately informed the Wildlife authorities who set up cages near the runaway and managed to capture it.
 “It is surprising that how the bear intruded into the Airport as it is fortified by towering walls and concertina wires. Besides the forests are well far away from the spot. However we learnt from its tag, that it is the same bear which we had captured from near Zabarwan forests. It seems that the bear has been talking shelter of plantation in residential areas and intruded into the Airport through the surface drain,” they said.
 Last year, a leopard had reached the Shivpora locality after crossing the headquarters of Army’s 15 Corps at Badami Bagh Cantonment.

RESPONSE

 The wildlife authorities have formulated special squads to capture the wild animals. “Our teams laced with tranquilizing guns and other equipments are camping in vulnerable areas. People don’t need to panic but immediately inform us in case they see a wild animal. We have also set up cages in various residential areas,” they said.

BLOODY TRAIL
 In past four years atleast 90 people have been killed and over 789 injured in man-animal conflict across the valley. Last year the problem was evident in north Kashmir after the leopards killed two persons including a 10 year old girl and injured dozens others, the authorities had declared them as man-eaters and ordered their killing.
 The man-animal conflict is not only confined to Baramulla but the entire Valley. Bears and leopards have been frequently spotted in residential areas across the countryside like Kupwara, Bandipora and Pulwama where forests have been vandalized by the smugglers during past 20 years.
 In 2006, a bear was burnt alive by an angry mob in Pulwama district. Earlier this year, a leopard was shot dead in Shopian district after it ventured into a village. These killings triggered severe criticism from animal rights activists.

SOLUTION
 Wildlife experts recommended that Government must set up buffer zones near the forests to minimize the man-animal conflict.
 “During past over two decades, residential colonies have come up near the forests. It has to be understood that people have intruded into the habitat of wild animals. Government needs to set up buffer zones between residential areas and forests. Besides it should cultivate the fruit trees and winter crops in the forests. If this is done, we see no reason for the wild animal to move out of forests,” experts said.

MINISTER SPEAKS
 The Minister of Forests, Mian Altaf acknowledged that the incidents of man-animal conflict have increased during the past few days. “The problem of man-animal conflict is a major challenge faced department. The problem is more severe in Ganderbal and South Kashmir. We have deputed our teams to the affected areas. However we face hindrances in absence of adequate police personnel who help in mob control during our operations to capture the wild animals. Firstly the police personnel are busy in law and order and secondly we are facing shortage of staff,” Altaf said.
 Altaf said the department has stepped up the process to procure state-of-the-art equipments to capture the wild animals. “We are hopeful that after three months, we will be fully laced with equipments and manpower to check the menace,” he added.

Lastupdate on : Tue, 2 Nov 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 2 Nov 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 3 Nov 2010 00:00:00 IST




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