HUMAN-ANIMAL CONFLICT | Authorities fail to prevent deaths in Baramulla, locals aghast

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Representational ImageFile/ GK

Baramulla, Sep 23: With the fresh incident of a leopard attack in the Uri area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district leaving a minor boy dead on Thursday evening, the fear among the residents here is increasing.

The human-animal conflict in Uri has consumed the lives of five minors since June this year.

In June, three minors were killed in the leopard attack while in September two minors were killed in such attacks.

The abrupt rise in the wild animal attacks has shaken the people, especially those residing close to the forest area.

The locals here partly blame the officials of the Wildlife Department for their inability to organise awareness programmes among the transhumant community who shift along with their livestock for six months to the higher altitudes to graze their cattle and settle in kothas for six months.

He said whenever members of such communities have to attend nature’s call, they rush outside their dhokas and often become victims of beast attacks, minors being the main targets.

“Most of the victims belong to transhumant families,” said Muhammad Shaban of Boniyar Uri where two minors were killed by a leopard. “They need to be educated about the risk of allowing their wards to step out of their house, especially in the evenings.”

As incidents of human-animal conflict in Uri shows no letup, people here blame the authorities for going easy on hunters.

“Private hunters in the forest areas disturb wildlife by shooting at them, leading them closer to kothas where transhumant communities stay,” said Showkat Ahmad, a local.

Many in the locality suggest that the need of the hour was to organise awareness campaigns among these communities and sensitise their children on some important dos and don’ts.

“We appeal to the Deputy Commissioner to take this matter seriously. The community can’t afford to lose more children,” an elderly man from the transhumant community said.

Regional Wildlife Warden, Kashmir, Rashid Naqash told Greater Kashmir that since the majority of the people in Uri live close to the forest area, they needed to take precautions while venturing out during mornings and evenings.

He said that in the recent incidents of human-animal conflict, minors were attacked outside their houses or makeshift kothas while grazing their cattle.

“The parents should ensure that their wards don’t come out without being accompanied by elders, especially at dawn and dusk. The beasts are always looking for prey and the minors are the most vulnerable prey,” Naqash said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Wildlife Protection Friday issued an advisory asking locals not to move alone in the forest areas.

Women and children have been advised to move in groups.

“The children and women need to take extra measures. The children should be accompanied by elders and always move on a regular forest path and avoid shortcuts,” the advisory reads.

It reads that people of the area should avoid going to forests, especially during mornings and evenings as it is peak activity time for the leopards.

“Avoid chasing wild animals if sighted from a distance in the forest area,” the advisory reads.

It has been suggested in the advisory that livestock taken to pastures inside forests or near crop fields should be attended to by more than three persons and some type of bell or sound-producing device should be tied around the neck of a few cattle.

The advisory read that those living in the vicinity of forests should finish their outside activities during the day-time.

“Sufficient lights should be provided outside homes. Creating kitchen-waste dumping around the house should be avoided as it often attracts dogs, which in turn attracts leopards,” the advisory reads.

Advising villagers to regularly remove all bushes or shrubs in the vicinity of the house, the advisory read that such steps increase visibility and help keep leopards away from houses.

“It has been observed that whenever a leopard is sighted, people make a lot of noise. As a result, the wild animal feels insecure. Such a practice can cause damage. As such, loud noises should be avoided if a wild animal is sighted,” the advisory reads.

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