Srinagar: With continuous depletion of Kashmir’s forest areas, the cases of human-animal conflict have spiked dramatically in recent years. There has been an increase in leopard and bear sightings, notably around Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir (J-K).
On 23 February, a leopard was spotted in Srinagar’s Wanbal neighborhood. Several more were suspected. Terrified, the people called the wildlife department. Even though the leopard has not attacked anyone in the neighborhood, the recent events in the Valley stir fear in the city.
As per the government data, 241 persons have died and 2,946 persons have been injured in man-animal conflict from 2006 till July 2022.
After receiving the call, Altaf Hussain, the wildlife warden of central division, told The Kashmir Walla: “It was necessary to ascertain first if the leopard was in fact present in the area. But one of our installed cameras captured a leopard in a photograph.”
Since then, Hussain’s team has been stationed in the locality round the clock. “Due to this dense jungle and the scared villagers, we have stationed our personnel here permanently. We’ve installed cameras, traps, and other things.”
The Kashmir Walla spent a couple of nights in the locality, embedded with the wildlife department’s team as they maintain efforts to rescue the leopard.
Leopards are clever and swift, Hussain explained. “And rescuing them is really challenging,” he added.
In fact, sometimes, it can take months. Earlier, in 2021, in central Kashmir’s Budgam, Hussain’s team spent over a month to rescue a leopard. “It is subject to your luck,” he said.
Given the topography of Srinagar’s outskirts, Hussain said that the man-animal conflict will persist in the locality because of adjacent forests and pathways in the vicinity.
“Our two men stayed in the trap cage for six hours in the frigid weather in an effort to rescue the leopard as soon as possible,” Hussain said. “They are always eager to help the general people. This makes me proud of my squad.”
The group is divided into four-person per team. Each group is armed with tranquilizer guns. A map is then used to decide the traps’ placement. Mukhtar Ahmed Kumar, a colleague of Hussain, has worked with the wild animals for the past 20 years. “We simply don’t want to put human life in peril. We always request that people stay away from us after the wild animal has been captured,” he said. “While it is unconscious, we must move it to a safer area.”
Another wildlife personnel, Ghulam Mohiuddin Kohli, who has been working for 16 years, said that he doesn’t fear wild animals. “I have the Almighty by my side. Unless the animal is rescued, I won’t stop.”
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