SRINAGAR, India (AP) – Amid the long and deadly conflict raging in Indian-controlled Kashmir, another conflict is silently wreaking havoc on the people of the Himalayan region: the conflict between man and wildlife.
According to official data, at least 67 people have been killed and 940 others injured in the past five years in wildlife attacks in the famous Kashmir Valley, a vast collection of alpine forests, connected wetlands and waterways known as much for its idyllic panoramas. as to its decades-long armed conflict between Indian troops and rebels.
The Himalayan black bear is at the heart of this problem. Experts claim that more than 80% of deaths and mutilations are due to black bear attacks.
In August, a black bear pounced on Manzoor Ahmad Dar at his vegetable farm. He is still recovering from a serious head injury.
Last year, Showkat Ahmed Khatana, a 50-year-old nomad, was killed while trying to save his younger brother from a black bear attack near their home in the Harwan region on the outskirts of the main town in the region, Srinagar. Her brother was injured in the attack.
Nestled between mountain peaks and plateaus, Kashmir has witnessed a rapid change in the way people use the land. Vast rice fields have been converted mainly into apple orchards. New neighborhoods have arisen around wetlands and forest areas. Deforestation and climate change have added to the woes.
In turn, experts say, animals are approaching human settlements in search of food and shelter, resulting in a sharp increase in attacks.
“The animals have embraced this change too,” said Rashid Naqash, Kashmir Wildlife Director. “And it’s interesting that they find their food and shelter readily available now in the orchards and foothills of the forests where humans have settled.
Naqash said that before, black bears usually went into hibernation during the winter. “But now they’re active even in deep, harsh winters and roam around year-round,” he says.
The conflict has also escalated as the wildlife population has increased while poaching of animals has almost ceased due to the tense security situation and the presence of Indian troops in the forest areas. Bears have easy access to food from kitchen scraps from armed forces camps.
The animals have also found their shattered habitat in the mountainous region, which is crisscrossed by thousands of miles of barbed wire and patrolled by tens of thousands of Indian soldiers.