Amid the protracted and deadly fighting in Indian-controlled Kashmir, another conflict is quietly taking its toll on the residents of the Himalayan region: one between man and wild animals.
According to official data, at least 67 people have been killed and 940 injured in the past five years in wild animal attacks in the famous Kashmir Valley, a vast collection of alpine forests, connected wetlands and waterways known so much for their idyllic views. regarding their decades-long armed conflict between Indian troops and rebels.
The Himalayan black bear is at the center of this problem. Experts say that more than 80 percent of deaths and attacks are due to black bear attacks.
In August, a black bear pounced on Manzoor Ahmad Dar on 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 his home in the Harwan area on the outskirts of the region’s main city, Srinagar. . His 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 mostly been turned into apple orchards. New neighborhoods have emerged around wetlands and forest areas. Deforestation and climate change have added to the problems.
In turn, experts say, animals are approaching human settlements in search of food and shelter, causing a sharp increase in attacks.
“Animals have adapted to this change too,” said Rashid Naqash, Kashmir’s wildlife director. “And interestingly, they find their food and shelter readily available now in orchards and forested hills where humans have settled.”
Naqash said that previously, black bears generally went into hibernation during the winter. “But now they are active even in deep, harsh winters and they roam all year long,” he said.
The animals have also found their broken habitat in the mountainous region, which is crisscrossed by thousands of miles of barbed wire and patrolled by tens of thousands of Indian troops.