In a tragic incident, a five-year-old girl from Budgam was mauled by a leopard on Thursday, sending the entire Kashmir into shock. His parents and kin had made a fervent appeal on social media Thursday evening after she went missing even though locals suspected that the girl was taken by the leopard since the wild animal was sighted in the area a few times recently. According to the police, the girl Ada Shakil daughter of Shakil Ahmed of Ompora Housing Colony went missing Thursday afternoon. Her body was found in the nearby forest nursery Friday morning. Ironically, the girl was taken by the leopard when she was playing in the lawn of her house. The big cats have been frequently spotted in the area of late with officials blaming the Forest Department nursery which, they say, acts as a safe haven for the animals. Whatever the case may be, a young life was lost in such a gory manner leaving his parents and family with life-long regret and pain. The incident is not an isolated one as human-animal conflict has increased manifold in the recent years in Kashmir. Deforestation and unplanned expansion of residential and commercial constructions have shrunk the natural habitat of these wild animals. As humans trampled and occupied their spaces, it is natural that more and more incidents of man-animal conflict are taking place. Official data shows that at least 33 people have lost their lives in different incidents of human-wildlife conflict in the last four years across Kashmir. Similarly, 498 persons have got injured in the last four years in the region. Human-wildlife conflict refers to an interaction between wild animals and people and resultant negative impact on people or their resources, or wild animals or their habitat. Human-Wildlife Conflict occurs when wildlife requirements overlap with those of human populations, creating costs both to residents and wild animals. Of late, the valley has seen a spike in such incidents. According to wildlife experts, there are many reasons contributing to man-animal conflict. One of them being the change of agricultural land use over the years in rural and semi-urban areas from traditional crops (paddy) to cash crops (fruits, mostly apples). This attracts bears which get good quality and large quantities of food in an orchard, rather than in the forest. A study titled, Casualties of human-wildlife conflict in Kashmir valley, India; a neglected form of trauma: our 10-year-study, reveals that in the human-animal conflicts, bear was the most common animal responsible for the human-animal conflict, followed by a leopard. Monkey and red fox attacks were less common and less lethal. Mortality was highest in leopard attacks. Wildlife Researchers say that habitat degradation, land use transformation, and increasing densities of livestock grazing in protected areas are also significant reasons behind the surge in these incidents. The wildlife department and other concerned government bodies should remain more active to avoid such tragic incidents. At the same time the government needs to reflect upon and come up with a strategy to save the natural habitat of these animals to minimise the incidents.
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