Caught Between Nomads And Troops: Human Intervention Threatens Kashmiri Hangul

2 October 2009
Rising Kashmir
Abid Bashir

Dachigram: The wildlife officials Friday termed the man-animal conflict as a challenge impossible to curb and added that endangered Kashmir stag Hangul, found in Dachigam National Park, remains sandwiched in the middle of Gujjar population living in the upper area and the troopers camping in the lower area of the park leaving very little space for Hangul to survive. However, the wildlife officials play safe as far as the number of Hanguls in the park are concerned. “The number of Hangul is around 200. It has not increased but its reproduction rate has increased. Unfortunately, fawns (new born Hanguls) become the target of leopards. This is why the specie number has decreased,” Chief Wildlife Warden Jammu and Kashmir, R D Tiwari told Rising Kashmir on the sidelines of a function ‘Media Sensitization Program Towards Resolution and Management of Man-Animal Conflict’, which was organized by the wildlife department. However, a senior wildlife official pleading anonymity said the main and the only reason for the extinction of Hangul was encroachment of specie’s habitat by Gujjars and troopers. “Dachigam is house to many species including some rare species including Hangul. In 1988, the number of Hangul was 800. At present, their number has shrunk to less than 200,” the official said. “The main reason for their annihilation is that they have been sandwiched between Gujjar’s living in the upper area and a large number of troops including paramilitary CRPF, in the lower belt of Dachigam.” With this, the official said, Hangul has remained confined to a small area of its habitat. “This is the reason why new born fawns become the easy target of leopards and black bears,” he said. The official disclosed that the troop presence in the park had resulted in the increase of a large number of wild dogs, who target at least two fawns each week. “Besides, the troop presence has led to pollution in the park,” the official said. The chief wildlife warden admitted that the excreta and trash could harm the flora and fauna of the animal habitat. “We will soon have a system to remove the excreta and garbage produced by the troops inside the park,” Tiwari said. Earlier, while interacting with the media men, Tiwari termed the man-animal conflict as a challenge “difficult to curb”. “This conflict has gained speed over the past 10 years. It is in Kashmir and has spread to Jammu and Ladakh regions too. In Ladakh, Kyans (a wild animal) show up in broad daylight in the fields causing conflict with the humans,” Tiwari said. “It is a big challenge and is very impossible to stop.” He said global warming and encroachment into the habitat of wild animals by humans were the causes largely responsible for this. “Global warming has largely affected the lifestyle of wild animals here. Normally bears hibernate in this month (October). But due to the delayed winters, it is coming out for food. The food too is not available for it at this state,” Tiwari said. “We have now prepared supplementary diet for bears.” The chief wildlife warden also cited bad condition of wildlife department as another reason for the man-animal conflict. “We have a very low budget, less resources, and less staff. The department is facing many problems which need to be addressed at the earliest,” he said. Speaking on the occasion, Regional Wildlife Warden Kashmir, Naseer Kitchloo said the department had kept a financial package of Rs 20,000 for the district forest officers for organizing awareness campaigns across the State. “You need to understand the behavior of an animal. If you watch a bear and run, it too will try to defend,” he said. Both, Tiwari and Kitchloo evaded the queries about the number of incidents and the figures of casualties so far in the man-animal conflict. Tiwari said the department had identified 200 villages in Jammu and 500 in Kashmir region for launching massive awareness drive about man-animal conflict and learning the behaviour of animals.