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September 19, 2022 7:02 pm

Man – Wild Encounters: The Unwelcome Guests

Representational Photo

WILDLIFE dislocation, poaching, shrinking forest habitat, extending human settlements into protected and fragile areas have all played a role in augmenting human-wild encounters causing irreparable damage to both the sides. The recent prowling of the bear and cub in the heartland of Srinagar is only an epilogue to a long series of forays by wild animals into inhabited localities. These episodes, increasing in their frequency as they are, raise both a social concern and ecological alarm. We might, in our complacency, ignore or marginalise  the severity of these issues but that will only amount to turning a blind eye to the intricacy and complexity of a web of factors on which human life itself depends. Visible signs in the form of climate change, wildlife disturbance, global warming are only a footnote to the precariousness of the biosphere and they awaken us to the impending disaster that looms large over the horizon. We have not actually woken up to the real gravity of the situation and rarely do we understand that a talk of endangered species only accelerates our own extinction, that shrinking wildlife sanctuaries implies directly the insecurity at our own home and a disequilibrium in biosphere is a subtle way towards suicide. Our negligence towards growing man versus wild encounters and the complacency rooted in indifference to matters of ecological and biotic purport have virtually pushed us to the precipice of vulnerability to all shades of disasters.

Ignorance may not be as lethal as indifference and in the womb of our indifference do fester problems growing in magnitude beyond our control. Masses may have a rough idea of factors leading to climatic and ecological disequilibrium – but an idea they have, no matter how vague. But agencies, departments and institutions entrusted with the preservation of wildlife, forests and ecosystems have an exact idea of their work, its criticality and finesse. But is this knowledge and competence witness to any change on ground – the ground facts, priorities and sensibilities speak the opposite.

In pursuit of comforts, luxuries and meeting our aesthetic standards, we forgo the fact that we don’t only violate the equilibrium that sustains life but are infringing upon the rights of animals – wild animals in this case. “A good deed done to an animal is as meritorious as a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being” , quotes Sira Abdul Rehma from the Prophet of Islam in one of his paper.

Superficiality will not work here and if we want to understand the Man-wild dynamics in all its colour and complexity, the pervasive material culture, non-terminating human greed and identification of self with “explorer” and “exploiter” of nature rather its “guardian” and “custodian” cannot be discounted. A change in outlook towards wildlife, forests, environment and creation in totality can’t be brought about in absence of a principle emphasising ideals and objectives higher than material comfort, sensual pleasure and raping of earth and robbing its resources without any hindsight or foresight of the detrimental consequences.

With the thinning of the forest cover, wild animals will be deprived of shelter and they will inevitably venture into residential areas. This is as simple an equation as that – you infringe on my premises, I will hit you back. But what ought to be done in an age of growing demand for forest wood, growing appetite for adorning our houses at the cost of reckless cutting of trees? This problem, if it is to be solved, has to be approached from all angles and that will imply collaborative and selfless contribution from a number of agencies. Foremost is the necessity to formulate an exhaustive and exclusive wildlife and forest policy which will delineate the dos and don’ts viz a viz forest and wildlife. Forests need grading and preservation in order of their criticality and fragility and any violation of wildlife laws need to be deterred by severe penal action. This is in the interest of the entire society and everybody needs to pin this fact to his/her mind. There is an immediate need to look for alternatives of wood for construction and other jobs of lesser importance. In fact, a large amount of materials are already in vogue and all that is needed is to generate awareness, bring in a legal perspective and make these alternatives cheap and affordable. Another area of concern is to provide nomadic tribes – which usually use forest trees as firewood with alternatives and put a curb on their ruthless cutting of trees or to earmark zones which they can cater their firewood needs from. All this may seem to be a digression from our main concern of minimizing and finally eliminating Man – Wild encounter, but a moments’ pause is enough to bring home the fact that these are actually the reasons responsible for this clash and a remedy thereof is sure to bring us respite from the iterative episodes of Man-Wild conflict. We have to decide and decide in all earnestness if we want to live in sync with nature or at a state of constant war with it, with the reminder that no species can survive while it is at war with nature.

  • Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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Amir Suhail Wani

The author is a writer and columnist