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Predator Alert
Published by S Choudhury, M Ali, T Mubashir, S Ahmad, M Sofi, I Mughal, U Sarma, A K Srivastava, R Kaul, 01 Dec 2008
Attacks on humans by leopards and Asiatic black bear in the Kashmir valley - Analysis of case studies and spatial patterns of elevated conflict. The purpose of this study was to suggest measures which could be employed to reduce this conflict. Over 200 victims were interviewed and over a hundred locations visited and inspected. This report presents the findings of the survey and suggests both short term and long term measures to improve the situation vis-à-vis human-wild animal conflict.
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The two most pressing man animal conflict situations that plague India today involve elephants and leopards. They cause, between them, the maximum attacks, human injuries and deaths and in many parts of the country, the conservation of wildlife is facing a severe challenge due to public perception and hostility due to these twin attacks. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir, elephants are replaced by bears. The state is home to both the black and the brown bears and these along with leopards have held the state in a veritable state of terror for the past few years. Although conflict is not a new phenomenon in the world, and in Jammu and Kashmir too, there is enough historical evidence to show that it is an old phenomena, it has certainly escalated greatly in the past few years. Whether this is due to change in forest cover, or change in land-use practices and livelihood options practiced by the local populace, or a decrease in wild prey for the predators due to illegal hunting by villagers or
indeed, a change in behaviour of the predator due to easy access to stray dogs and livestock, is a moot point, but the statistics definitely do show a rise in incidences of conflict.

Any long-term solution of such conflict is bound to be multi-disciplinary and should deal in equal measure with animal biology and human attitudes. It should also provide succor to the victims of such attacks as quickly and efficiently as possible. Finally land use needs to be addressed. If these steps are not taken and attention is focused only on the problem animal of the instant, then it is likely that the solution is a temporary band aid and that the problem will recur in another place at another time. The Wildlife Trust of India has been working on man elephant conflict for many a year, but over the last two years had decided to also try and deal to some extent with leopard and bear conflicts. To begin with, WTI worked with the Ministry of Environment and Forests to draft a national policy with reference to man-leopard conflicts. The workshop which saw participation of most of the affected state chief wildlife wardens, the ministry officials, biologists who have worked on large predators and other concerned conservationists (largely national but with a spattering of international technical expertise) did draft a national policy and strategy to deal with this issue.

However, while policy deliberations were ongoing in Delhi, as a field-based conservation action organisation, WTI also wished to get into the thick of action in at least one place in the field and it was the Jammu and Kashmir government that came forward with a request that was undertaken by WTI over the last six months. This was to conduct a reasonably rapid  assessment of the conflict situation in the state vis-à-vis these two predators and their conflict with man and to recommend a way forward. This report is the result of this study. If the recommendations are carried forward and implemented, and in this WTI wishes to work shoulder-toshoulder with the state and the union government, the situation can be brought under control. This will both ease the situation of the long suffering rural folk of the state but also aid in conservation –of wild fauna in Jammu and Kashmir. This activity of WTI complements well, the on-ground conservation efforts it has undertaken on mountain ungulates (markhor, chiru and wild yak) and the alternate livelihoods project involving  shahtoosh workers in the state and provides yet another dimension of collaboration between the state and WTI in conservation

Vivek Menon
Executive Director
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