Wasted Food, Dogs Driving Wild Animals Towards City: Experts

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Srinagar- Hours after another wild intrusion in the urban pocket of Kashmir created panic and raised alarm bells, the experts on Monday called for an immediate defense mechanism and shifting strategies to restore order in the jungle.

Regional wildlife warden Kashmir region, Rashid Naqash told Kashmir Observer that unless an ecologically viable number of natural habitats isn’t maintained, such wild intrusions are impossible to end.

“Our city has adopted an unnatural way of waste management. There are heaps of Solid and kitchen waste lying on roads. Even the wazwan leftover is thrown on these roads and ironically, black-bear is known to have a high smelling power. So, don’t you think it’s quite obvious that these wild beasts will be attracted to a space that has an easy availability of food,” said Naqash, adding that a western way of disposing waste needs to be strictly adopted in Kashmir.

The wildlife warden quickly added that the steps taken by his department are immediate measures and not a longtime strategy. He said that Kashmir’s landscape is a landlocked area and a superficial look at the valley’s land structure reveals that a substantial portion of the agricultural land has been turned into horticultural land.

“The spaces near jungles are now settlements, that itself, has put a huge pressure on wildlife. These animals have come out of their natural habitat. They have now adapted to live in a human-dominated landscape because of the easy food availability in these places. And when the boundaries between humans and wild animals are reduced, such incidents are bound to happen,” Naqash said.

On Monday, the wildlife department’s team successfully injected tranquilizer to the Himalayan black bear and its cub who were seen roaming in Srinagar’s Rajbagh area since Sunday after injuring a man in the neighbouring Lal-Mandi area of the city.

Echoing similar views as Naqash, Aliya Mir, a prominent wildlife expert and Wildlife SOS Jammu & Kashmir’s head for conservation program said that the primary factor behind these rapid wild sightings is the shrinking habitat of wild animals.

“In recent years, there has been a substantial decrease in Kashmir’s landscape, even the official figures suggest the same. I’d say, the most practical way of containing wild intrusion in urban spaces is to stop meddling with wildlife. Just look at Pampore, Budgam or even Srinagar…. all these places have witnessed a rapid urbanization in the wild pockets and that has somehow pushed wild animals into urban spaces.” Aliya said.

She further said that wild animals are always in need of a hiding place and food.

“So, we’ve to fulfill their basic needs. That means, the human interference in their natural habitat has to be contained. And once these steps are taken, I’m pretty sure that a positive change will be seen.” says Aliya.

Pertinently, until 2005, reports of man-animal conflict in urban spaces of Kashmir would rarely pour in. But over the past 15 years, as per the data prepared by the wildlife department of Kashmir and reported by Citizen Matter, wild animals have easily gained entry into residential areas of Kashmir’s major towns that include Pulwama, Shopian, Budgam, Ganderbal and Srinagar.

Before, black bears, it was the leopard that had created havoc and fear in Srinagar pockets last year. A fortnight ago, Kashmir’s prominent activist, Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat had shared a video wherein a leopard was spotted around Srinagar’s Civil Lines area, Humhama.

“Their habits and habitat has changed. These wild animals, especially leopard and black bear would earlier feed on wild plants, fruits and animals but now, as the urbanisation has rapidly shrinked jungles, these beasts are migrating into residential areas. Another reason is the man-made jungle like Shankaracharya hill. Besides, Food waste, the growing population of dogs is also attracting these wild animals. Dogs are a soft target and easy food which pushes the wild population towards urban spaces. They’ve now adapted a new habitat, which obviously poses a threat to humans,” Bhat told Kashmir Observer.

Pertinently, due to the rising climate change and temperature even snakes were actually seen crawling and pooling in Srinagar city. “Mainly, the intrusion of these animals into human habitation has to do with rising temperatures. Due to climate change, the venomous snakes, especially Levantine Viper commonly known as “Gunas”, was recently found in residential areas of the Dalgate and Buchwara, Srinagar.” Says Aliya Mir

Since these areas come under the Dachigam-Zabarwan range, she said, they’re the typical habitat of snakes. “But then these creatures would rarely come out,” she said, “as they do now.”

According to Ifshana Diwan, Wildlife Warden for Kashmir Wetlands, the easy availability of food, shelter in human spaces and rapid urbanization are the three main reasons behind increasing wild intrusion into urban areas and residential areas.

“Another reason behind wild animals migrating into urban spaces is the rising number of dogs. They’re a soft target for wild beasts directly imposing a threat to human life and property,” Ifshana told Kashmir Observer.

Notably, the experts have also requested people to participate in awareness programmes organised by wildlife departments and NGOs in order to tackle death tolls on both sides.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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