SRINAGAR A female Himalayan black bear and her 5-month-old cubs were found living in an abandoned house in Budgam district and relocated to their natural habitat in a joint operation by Wildlife SOS and the Wildlife Protection Department.
In recent years, problems related to human wildlife conflict has escalated in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly pertaining to wild bears. With rapid human encroachment, loss of habitat as well as depletion of prey base, animals inhabiting forests and natural reserves have suitably adapted to habitat modification and had grown dependent on crops and livestock for food, Wildlife SOS said in a statement.
Last week, residents of Sholi Pora village located in Budgam district were shocked to catch a glimpse of a female Himalayan black bear with two cubs in tow, wandering about the neighbourhood. They soon discovered that the bears had taken up shelter in an abandoned house in the outskirts. On Monday, the incident was reported to the Wildlife Department, who in turn contacted Wildlife SOS for assistance.
While the teams prepared to carry out the rescue operation, the residents were advised to keep their distance to avoid any form of conflict. Meanwhile, the bear and her cubs had retreated to the house. After a quick assessment to the situation, the rescuers set up safety nets along the periphery of the house while the veterinarian from the Wildlife Department attempted to tranquilize the bears.
Things took a dramatic turn when the terrified mother bear darted out of the house leaving her young behind. The team managed to successfully transfer the sedated cubs into a trap cage and waited patiently for the mother to return in search of them. She eventually emerged from the neighbouring forest around 6:00 pm and the team carefully sedated her from a distance. Once the family was reunited, they were relocated to a suitable habitat in the wild, the statement said.
Aaliya Mir, Wildlife SOS Manager & Education Officer said, The female bear must have been using the house as a makeshift shelter where she could give birth in and safely rear her cubs. The rescue operation lasted all day and was quite challenging. We are grateful to the villagers for their cooperation and to the Wildlife Department for making this rescue mission a success.
Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-founder & CEO of Wildlife SOS said, The bears have been released into a more suitable habitat where they can thrive. I am glad that our team was able to assist the Wildlife Department with timely intervention to prevent a conflict situation. Himalayan Black bears are affected by deforestation and habitat loss due to the timber industry and forest fires, changes in cropping patterns and encroachment in buffer areas They are also hunted for their body parts, specifically the skin, paws and gall bladder, which is used in traditional medicine.
Over the years, the Wildlife SOS team in union with the J&K Wildlife Department has rescued and rehabilitated over fifty animals, mainly black bears and leopards. They have also been continuously working on wildlife education awareness to change the perspective of the communities living in close proximity to the natural habitats of wild animals. The NGO is currently providing lifetime care to six Asiatic Black Bears and two Himalayan Brown Bears in their Pahalgam and Dachigam rescue centers, which is run in collaboration with the Wildlife Department.