Baramulla: North Kashmir witnessed the highest number of deaths in man-animal conflict in 2022 as the wildlife department, facing staff crunch, found it difficult to combat this 'interface'.
However, with the increase in such incidents, the efforts to combat such occurrences by adopting fresh strategies have also gained momentum.
As per official figures, seven persons lost their lives in different incidents of man-animal conflict across north Kashmir during 2022. Out of seven deaths, six deaths alone were reported from north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.
A cursory look into the strength of wildlife department employees in the north division paints a grim picture. The wildlife department across north Kashmir comprises four Range offices located at Baramulla, Sopore, Bandipora and Tangmarg.
The strength of employees in the wildlife department division north Kashmir is not more than 35 which reflects the department's weakness in tackling the man-animal conflict.
An official of the department, while acknowledging the understaffing a big hurdle in combating the man-animal conflict, said, “The department is in dire need of increase in its staff strength so that a vast forest area of north Kashmir does not remain uncovered.”
“The staff strength is low,” said an official of the wildlife department. “In this direction several requests have been made to the higher authorities and we are optimistic that some concrete measures will be taken in the near future,” he added.
Analysing the incidents of deaths that occurred last year in Baramulla district, it was found that six deaths were reported from the Uri area of the sub-region. These deaths happened in the non-protected area of forests.
The protected forests refer to the land area which is protected by law, for the conservation of biodiversity. Encroachment or poaching in these areas is a punishable offence by law.
In Uri area, the protected land area includes Limber wildlife sanctuary comprising 11 compartments, Lachipora wildlife sanctuary spread over 9 compartments, besides a national park and a conservation reserve. On the other hand the non-protected area has no administrative control.
“In protected areas, the administrative control ensures that there is no man-animal conflict. However, since there is no administrative control in the non protected areas, that is why most of the man-animal conflicts often occur in these areas only,” said an official of wildlife department
Experts say that there has been no proper survey to ascertain why wild animals descend to the habitations for prey and in the end result in man-animal conflict. “Are these forests unable to fulfill their needs for food or is there human intervention which forces them to enter into human habitation? This needs to be analysed,” they point out
“If a wild animal like leopard enters into habitation for prey despite having a vast area of forests for its food needs, it shows either there is scarcity of food stuff for the wild animal in the forests or there is some human intervention,” said Muhammad Ashraf, former wildlife department official.
The Assistant Professor Wildlife SKAUST, Dr Khursheed Ahmad said, “Evidence-based data shows that the population of leopards has increased across Kashmir, though there is no proper survey which affirms the claim.
Besides the increase in leopard population, the department of forest has developed forest nurseries which are located close to human habitation. Since these nurseries provide forest cover to the leopards, with the result leopards don’t return to their natural habitats i.e., forests.``
“Since these nurseries are located close to the human habitation, the leopard often finds easy prey like dogs, poultry, goats etc,” said Dr Khursheed. “These nurseries provide forest cover to the leopards, and instead of searching a vast area in the forest for prey, they easily get their prey near these nurseries. Sometimes they attack humans outside such nurseries,” added Dr Khursheed Ahmad.