Animal Attacks Ravage Kashmir: 32 Lives Lost, 296 Injured in 3 Years

Animal Attacks Ravage Kashmir: 32 Lives Lost, 296 Injured in 3 Years

Waris Fayaz

Srinagar, Dec 22 : Kashmir has become a battleground for human-wildlife conflicts, and the officials attribute it to the encroachment of wildlife habitats due to expanding human settlements and agricultural activities.

According to wildlife officials, north Kashmir in particular has seen a steep rise in conflicts involving black bears and leopards, which pose threats to both residents and animals.

Official data reveals that from 2021 to December 2023, 32 people have lost their lives, and 296 have been injured in human-animal conflicts.

In 2021-22, 10 fatalities and 75 injuries were reported, while 2022-23 witnessed an increase with 13 deaths and 118 injuries. The data for 2023 until December 06 shows nine deaths and 136 injuries.

The conflicts are not limited to fatalities and injuries; they also result in property damage and pose risks to lives, the officials said.

Wildlife experts and officials attribute the surge in these man-animal conflicts to changes in land use patterns, deforestation and the shrinking natural habitat. These have pushed animals closer to human settlements in search of food, they said.

Farooq Ahmed, a wildlife official stationed in north Kashmir, said the encroachment on wildlife habitats, deforestation and expansion of agriculture have led to such conflicts.

“Conflict between humans and animals is witnessing a surge and the main reason is human interference. Had we not invaded their habitat, they would not have come to this stage, searching for food,” he said.

Farooq, who looks after the frontier Kupwara district, said bears and leopards are reportedly venturing closer to human settlements, which has resulted in damage to properties and lives.

He said there is a need to find a sustainable balance between human development and wildlife conservation to mitigate risks associated with these interactions.

“Wild animals used to live in forests, and then humans interfered by taking up agriculture or horticulture. This has only invited disaster,” he said.

The official further added that the wildlife department with the assistance of other departments is working to lessen such conflicts. “Safety of both humans and animals is our priority,” he added.

Wildlife expert Mohammad Ramzan Dar identified three main reasons for the conflicts: the rise in human population, communication issues and poor management.

“We need to understand animal behaviour and avoid actions that may provoke them,” he said, adding, “Invasions and conflicts are not new, but the problem lies in communication and lack of management.”

There is a lack of serious commitment among the department employees, Dar, a former wildlife employee, said, adding that these animals should not be irritated at any cost. He called for enhanced vigilance among people living close to forests.

Officials from the wildlife department urged people not to take matters into their own hands but to inform the department. They assured immediate action in response to calls for assistance to ensure the safety of both humans and wildlife news agency KNO reported.

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