Human-animal conflict is a new norm in Kashmir. Reports of these conflicts often appear in the media. The conflict has become a great challenge for the official agencies concerned. According to official data, up to 118 people have been killed and 1,877 injured in wildlife attacks in the valley over the past 10 years (as of 2011). In 2020, up to 10 deaths and 141 injuries by wildlife were reported in Kashmir. This year alone, at least three human deaths from wildlife have been reported. Among them, the most recent incident occurred late Friday evening (September 17) at Hari Pora Haran in Soibough of Budgam District, where an eight-year-old boy was mutilated to death by a leopard. This horrific and unfortunate incident occurred about three months after a four-year-old girl was killed by a leopard on June 3, in the Ompura region of the same district. The maimed body of the young girl was found in the forest nursery about a kilometer from her house the next day. It is not only humans, but domestic animals too are preyed upon by wild animals. However, such incidents are rarely reported. On the night of May 17-18 this year, ten sheep were killed in a leopard attack in the village of Khaipora of Khansahib tehsil of Budgam. Since the unfortunate Ompura incident, the Wildlife Department has captured up to seven leopards in the same area; and currently, three trap cages, to hang potentially lethal animals, have been installed by the department in Ompura and adjacent areas.
Further study of the matter indicates that from the understaffed and ill-equipped wildlife department to human interference in wildlife habitats, there are so many issues responsible for the conflict. Experts say the Department of Wildlife is receiving the least attention from authorities and, as a result, is understaffed. Employees in the department lack proper training and equipment. In addition, human intervention in the native habitat of wild animals disrupts these animals and forces them to move to human habitats causing conflict. Experts say leopards have urbanized on the 20-25 kilometer stretch from Karewa (Wodder) to Badgam over the years. As this Karewa is vegetated, it offers a necessary shelter for the animals. Leopards don’t necessarily need huge jungles to live. They would live anywhere subject to shelter and the availability of food. Leopards living in Karewa vegetation easily find their food in terms of dogs. The dog population continues to grow in nearby areas due to poor solid waste management. This means that these leopards have both the required items – blanket and food – available here.
The conflict is also triggered by massive deforestation, the construction of roads and infrastructure projects until the encroachment of wildlife habitats by humans. Human greed and desire for more resources has led to the loss of wildlife habitat. To ensure the safety of humans and animals, we must stop the further destruction of forest areas and stop diverting forest land for development projects. While people and administration must avoid interfering with the natural habitat of wildlife, the Department of Wildlife must have sufficient manpower and modern technology in order for the conflict to be resolved. minimized. To monitor the movement of wild animals, the department should install CTV cameras in all potential areas and have close communication with the population there. The department concerned and ordinary people must work hand in hand to ensure the safety of humans and wildlife.