“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Zeenat exposes how disappearing animal species in Kashmir is yet another victim of Government apathy

(Ms. Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil, 28, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. She did her schooling from King George (Mumbai) and later Cambridge (New Delhi), and received her Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Kashmir in 2008. Presently, she is also pursuing her second Masters degree in Mass Communications through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). In 1998, she began her career as a freelance journalist with leading national newspapers and simultaneously joined ‘Fazil Kashmiri Publications’ as Editor and Publisher, and is also an editor of the ‘Focus’. Ms. Fazil has written a book on Mass Media and Linguistics (2006), and ‘Falcons of Paradise'(2009), a reference book contains 100 Eminent Personalities of J&K starting from 14th century till date. After working for ‘Daily Etaalat’- a Srinagar based Newspaper in 2007-2008; she joined ‘Daily Kashmir Images’ as a Senior Correspondent by the end of 2008. She is also currently associated with ‘Charkha’, a foundation that highlights the developmental concerns of marginalized section of Kashmiri society particularly in rural areas and to draw out perspectives on women through their writings. Ms. Fazil is also associated with ‘Interchurch Peace Council Netherlands’ which is intensely involved in several conflict areas such as in Kashmir. In 2009, she joined the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA). She has received numerous awards for her meritorious contribution in the field of literature. Her interests are reading, writing, poetry, music, travel,and gender related topics.)

Kashmir – a Classic Case of Forested Place Without Forest Policy!

Srinagar: Even as the incidence of human-wild animal conflicts is on the rise, population of wild animals in Kashmir Valley is on decline owing to extensive deforestation which is shrinking the natural habitat of these animals.

Kashmir which was once home to vast wildlife reserves including some rare species which existed only in the Valley has steadily lost this distinction over the years.

“Rare species like that of Marmot and Snow Leopard have been hunted down for its valuable skin and teeth and today they are on the verge of extinction. Similarly, famous ‘Kashmiri Otter’ is hardly now seen in the Valley,” says a Wildlife official who wished not to be named.

He said the hunting of rare species like that of Horned Sheep, Kashmiri Antelope, the Blue Sheep, Urian, Ibex and Snow Leopard has been in practice since 1947.

Some decades back most of these animals were killed for food needs but when it was realized how precious the animal furs and skins were in the international market, slaughter of these wild animals started with much ardour, he said adding that this has resulted Marmot, Snow Leopard, Flying Squirrel having reached on the verge of extinction.

Hangul or Kashmir Stag these days is spotted mostly in the northern regions of Kashmir Valley and as per the survey carried out jointly by the Department of Wildlife Protection, J&K, and the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), its (Hangul’s) overall population is around 218. Some two decades back, 3000 Hangul were present in Dachigam National Park and its adjoining areas alone.

Other reasons responsible for declining population of wild animals include the encroachment of the forest land by the people and troops which has disturbed the natural habitat of these animals.

This is one of the main reasons for increasing incidence of human-wild animal confrontations, which have proved fatal to both, experts say. They say owing to human encroachments in their natural habitat, wild animals often descend to human habitations in search of food.

“Once food becomes unavailable to them in their natural surroundings, they start moving from one place to another for want of food. Sometimes they move to such areas that may not be protected and become prone to predators,” Wildlife officials say.

Kashmir’s ecological balance has also been severely disturbed as a result of unabated environmental destruction for the past 40 years.

Permanent snow-cover on mountains has receded, snowfall and rainfall has significantly diminished and average temperatures have risen above normal.

The combined effect of deforestation and mismanagement of water resources has also resulted in soil erosion which is also responsible for frequent flash-floods, experts point out.

In order to prevent further damage to the wildlife, the authorities will have to protest the forests and environment in general. “Wild animals can be saved fro extinction only if their natural habitat is saved and restored.”

However, a general consensus among the wildlife and environmental experts here is that protection of forests is and has never been a priority for the state government.

“Buying tranquilizers and putting in place other measures to deal with increasing human-wild animal conflicts is just a momentary measure – it could never save wild animals nor prevent their deadly confrontations with human. State needs a comprehensive forest and environmental policy, and above all a massive political will to save whatever is left of our forests and wild animals living in them,” suggested another expert.

Despite repeated attempts, both Minister for Forest and Wildlife (J&K), Mian Altaf Ahmad, and Chief Wildlife Warden (J&K), A K Singh, didn’t respond to the calls made by this newspaper office.