April 30, 2020: Leopard killed, skinned amid COVID-19 lockdown in Kashmir. The animal was killed in retaliation after attacking a village in Kulgam district and injuring several people.
June 4, 2021: A 4-year-old girl was mauled to death by a leopard in Budgam.
July 12, 2021: Leopard kills a minor girl in Kashmir’s Ganderbal.
August 28, 2021: Three persons were injured in a bear attack in Kupwara.
November 12, 2021: A woman was killed in a bear attack in South Kashmir.
March 28, 2022: 13 sheep were killed in a leopard attack in north Kashmir’s Kupwara in a suspected leopard attack.
June 14, 2022: Rampaging leopard kills three children in Kashmir in 48 hours. The leopard was said to be roaming in the woods of Uri.
June 15, 2022: Leopard terror as wildlife department issues order to kill man-eater in Uri.
These are a few news splashes over the last two years, depicting the grave level of the Man-Animal conflict in Kashmir. Many precious lives have been consumed by this conflict so far. The situation is grim and ghastly.
They say, in a world where even humans are treated brutally, animals must be in a totally desperate condition!! Hence the Man-Animal conflict, when animals cause a direct and recurring threat to the life, livestock and livelihood of humans. The encounter between man and animal turns into conflict when it leads to harmful fallout, such as loss of property, livelihoods, and even life.
This usually leads to retaliation by man and persecution against the blamed animal. The defensive and retaliatory killing may eventually drive these species to extinction. Even though man and wild animals have coexisted for ages, the conflict between humans and animals is becoming more widespread and threatening for both. This becomes more important when the safety of humans and ecosystem conservation is equally essential.
As seen globally, Kashmir too is witnessing human population pressure resulting in the conversion of pastures, forest lands and wildlife habitats into industrial and residential places. Furthermore, many streams, pools, sources of rivers and tributaries are extinguishing gradually. Deforestation, illegal poaching and overgrazing by livestock are bulging concerns. This results in the migration of wildlife for food and water towards conversed lands ensuing man-animal encounters resulting in injuries and death of humans and animals as well.
To overcome this problem, the underlying socio-economic conditions of Kashmir need to be understood, which is fuelling the situation. Temporary measures and knee-jerk reactions to an accident are not going to yield any substantial result. The wildlife department needs to be equipped with the latest technology to identify and find wild animals. The department should have enough trained manpower and machinery to tranquillize or catch the predators alive. Awareness and sensitizing programs about reducing man-animal conflict should be held in sensitive and prone areas.
In the Man-Animal encounters, the outcomes are usually fatal. From causing injury or loss of life of humans and wildlife, it may even cause damage to the crop, depredation of livestock, and predation of managed wildlife stock. This type of conflict may also lead to the collapse of wildlife populations and the reduction of geographic ranges.
Globally, there are huge challenges in dealing with this conflict. The Man-Animal Conflict is very complex and poorly understood because it is shaped and predisposed by the underlying political, economic and cultural concerns of the given area. Sometimes these conflicts become very complicated as tolerance levels and reactions by the people to the attack by the wildlife vary. Some people tolerate the losses incurred by the wildlife while some people are not at all willing to accept the presence of such species. Especially when human causalities are involved.
Several studies and expert opinions across the globe have demonstrated that the cases of encounters between humans and wildlife differ. This makes it difficult for policymakers to propose an effective solution to this complex problem. To tackle this challenge, collaborative and integrative approaches are important to understand the genesis of this conflict, and what a given conflict is all about. The multidisciplinary approach can facilitate access to the necessary skills and resources for mitigating a given conflict.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. The specialist group of IUCN that deals with Man-Animal Conflict and Coexistence published its statement on managing Man-Animal Conflict, urging governments, community leaders and other stakeholders to ensure that efforts to manage Man-Animal conflicts are pursued through well-informed, holistic and collaborative processes that take into account underlying social, cultural and economic contexts.
Most countries are grappling with the increasing instances of Man-Animal Conflict, a composite challenge and as such this conflict is appearing in national policies for wildlife conservation.
Recently, as per a report by the Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change headed by Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh, the Parliamentary Panel for the body proposed to address human-animal conflict and suggested that Environment Ministry must constitute an advisory body of experts to tackle growing instances of man-animal conflict. Though efforts to address this grave issue are on cards, no obvious implementation is visible on the ground.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK