Wildlife Conflict & Kashmiri Ecology

Wildlife Conflict & Kashmiri Ecology

23 November 2013
OnIslam
Farooq Ganai

Srinagar: The world-famous disputed region of Kashmir which has been home to a rich wildlife coffers is now fast becoming an unproductive and uninhabited land for these animals. The main cause of that is the ‘man-animal conflict’ that disrupts the ecological balance in the region. The severity of the ‘man-animal conflict’ in Kashmir is otherwise an outcome of ecological imbalance in the region caused by the destruction of forests besides the increasing infrastructure. Some blame the 23 year-long turmoil, while others accuse the accelerating population growth besides huge damages of forests during the period of unrest in Kashmir as the main causes for disturbing ecological balance. Kashmir's ecological balance has been severely affected as a result of unabated environmental destruction over a period of nearly three decades. “The green forests were cleaned with the result the habitation of the wild animals got disturbed and they start moving down to the residential areas”, a Wildlife official from North Kashmir told OnIslam.net. According to experts, the main reason of ecological imbalance is pollution and the misuse of natural resources just to earn more money. The massive deployment of the Indian and Pakistani armies on the line that currently divides Kashmir since in 1947, resulted in a large scale poaching as the troops in forward border areas are indulged in killing rare species of wildlife like the Ibex, Blue Sheep, Urian, the big horned sheep, Antelope and Snow Leopard mainly to satisfy their appetite for hunting. “Even when the soldiers understand how expensive the furs and skin of these animals were in the international markets, they started to hunt these rare animals for their valuable skins, horns and teeth”, says a forest official wishing not to be named. If State wildlife department is to be believed they say Barking Deer, Cheetal, Nilgai, Markhor, Musk Deer, Himalayan Black Bear, Shapu, Ibex, Blue Sheep, Marmot, leopard and Lynx may soon become extinct if their unrestricted slaughter is not checked. Rapid decline of wild animals in the Indian-controlled Kashmir is due to the extensive deforestation that disturbs the natural habitat for wildlife. For the past seven years, the widespread use of high velocity rifles by security forces in villages and forests surrounding the Himalayan valley in their brutal crackdown on Kashmiri resistance groups has further added to the toll of the already precarious wildlife reserves. 'It is the destabilization of a fragile environment, often as a result of economic development.' Causes of ecological imbalance include invasive animals, invasive plant species, overpopulation of humans, improper disposal of human waste, and over use of natural resources. 'Ecology can only be maintained when people know the importance of wildlife and they know that they need oxygen in the air to breathe,' says an official of Kashmir’s wildlife and environment department. Former Chief Conservator Forests (Regional wildlife warden Kashmir) Manzoor Ahmad Tak is of firm belief that the increase in man-animal conflict is due to the fast developmental activities in Kashmir, expanding of road networks through or nearby forests and conversion of woods to agriculture fields. According to Tak, “The ratio of man-animal conflict in Kashmir is highest ever in the world and during the past thirty years there has been tremendous increase in the animal-related incidents in Kashmir”. There is dearth of employees and the department has the same strength which was prior to 30 years. Now a proposal has been moved and the strength will be increased. “All what the department is doing is minimizing such type of attacks via awareness programs to show public the Do’s and Don’ts”, he told OnIslam. “It is not only shaving of forests that can be held responsible for the increase in number of attacks but the developmental aspect cannot be ruled out”, Tak continued. Under such circumstance the ecology gets disturbed and to set it at normal level we need to look into the problem and educate people about its adverse effects, he explained. According to Abdul Rashid Sheikh, Forester Wildlife Department for North Kashmir areas like Lolab, Sogam, Handwara, Kupwara, Rafiabad and Bandipora are more prone to leopards and Black bears attacks while Sopore, Zainageer villages are prone to wolf attacks in North Kashmir and dozens of people particularly children were killed and hundreds were injured in man-animal conflict. “Sopore area is prone to wolf attacks as the nearby forest got cleaned during the militancy by forest smugglers”, he told OnIslam, adding “wolves start coming down to residential areas in search of food”. He said wolves are more powerful than leopards as they bite humans like dogs and torn them into pieces. Regarding measures that are being taken by the wildlife department to solve the man-animal conflict, Sheikh informed that the department organizes camps to make people aware about the threats of wild animals. Initiatives & Turning Points “During these programs we educate people about Do’s and Don’ts”, he told OnIslam. “Main causes of increasing man-Animal conflict are that encounters which took place between the militants and security forces during these years disturb the wild life”, he suggested. Sheikh also explained that what actually happened due to these encounters, was that pregnant black bears and leopards descended to plains for safety and to deliver babies in sites near the human-inhabited villages. “When these black bears or leopards grow up they became immune to the local environment and prefer to stay there which results in the conflict”, he told OnIslam.net. Another reason for the man-animal conflict is fencing of Line of Actual control which divides India and Pakistan. “The wild animals like Leopards, black bears and other animals used to migrate to the other side of the border, but due to the fencing they either got electrocuted or move down back to the villages on this side of the border”, the wildlife official assured, adding, even it is difficult for the rescue teams of the department to capture these animals. At the same time, the populations of bears and other wild animals have increased as poaching and hunting has been banned in Kashmir due to the ongoing turmoil. Ecological Imbalance? Any factor that upsets the balance of the nature leads to ecological imbalance. There are several factors contributing to this. On the top is the interaction between inorganic and organic factors, also called Abiotic and Biotic factors; or the interaction between living and nonliving. “Among the living organisms are producers (plants), decomposers (bacteria etc) and consumers (humans etc).Then there are food chains and food webs that constitute a relationship among the living beings. When they die, they are decomposed into nonliving matter. In the entire gamut of things man alone is capable of manipulating the environment by certain activities of which he is capable. Man's greed and propensity for sexual life lead to depletion of natural resources and these two are the most potent factors for ecological imbalance” Sheikh explained. An ecosystem can be defined as a community where organisms interact with each other in such a way that energy flows in a cyclic way. In a balanced ecosystem, all species of flora and fauna thrives without predominating or crowding others. Moreover, predator species control the prey species' population without completely destroying them. All life forms thrive blissfully in a cohesive, relatively independent zone. Most ecosystems are rarely in balance. External factors like pollution and climatic change can destabilize the entire ecosystem. This can cause the flora or fauna population to plummet.