Jammu, Feb 6: Replying to a calling attention notice by Syed Basharat Ahmad Bukhari, Minister of State for Forest Aijaz Ahmad Khan said that one girl Miss Sobia Nazir D/O Nazir Ahmad Sheikh R/O Dudbugh Kandichak, Police Station Chandoosa tehsil and district Varmul about 10 years old was killed by a leopard at 7.30 p.m. on 3rd of February 2007 when she had gone in the Kandichak Forest area for nature’s call.
The concerned Wildlife Warden received the information through Police Control room, Varmul.
He said several steps have been taken by the wild life protection department to tackle the situation which includes soon after receiving the information a party headed by Range Officer, Varmul Wildlife range was deputed to visit the site of occurrence alongwith the concerned field staff. The next morning Wildlife Warden North Kashmir also rushed to the spot and tried to assuage the feelings of the kith and kin of the deceased and the local residents.
The postmortem report of the deceased is awaited. In the meanwhile, the Wildlife Warden North Kashmir is processing the compensation case as the family of the deceased is entitled to ex-gratia relief of Rs.1.00 lakh.
Cages at some locations along with live-baits are being installed with a view to traping the leopard in the cage.
A control room has been established at Sopur to oversee the situation Wildlife Warden, North Kashmir is camping in the area.
The Police/army authorities have been approached to render their assistance to the Department of wildlife Protection in controlling the leopard problem.
In cases, when a leopard turns man-eater, the department can issue orders for killing of the leopard under sub-section 1(a), of the section 10 of J&K Wildlife Protection Act, 1978 (Amended up to 2002), if other measures of controlling the problem through capturing or translocation of animal do not succeed. This option is being considered for issue of killing permission of the said leopard turned man-eater.
Awareness drive through news papers, Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan have been carried in Kashmir valley to educate the local people about certain do’s and don’ts to prevent the man-animal conflicts.
The staff of Department of Wildlife Protection is establishing contact with local people in the affected area with a view to educate them about the menace of leopard and how to avert this problem. They have been advised not to leave their houses before sunrise and after the sunset to carry sticks or other weapon, to move in groups rather than in isolation, to carry torches/lantern etc if traveling during late hours. They have also been advised not to go in the forest for collection of fodder/fuel wood during late hours.
He said reasons for increase in cases of leopard attacks are shrinking habitat for Wild animals, spread of human settlements, decimation of forest cover and corresponding decrease in population of herbivores (prey-base) in the forest areas. Also due to the complete ban on hunting and fur trade in the state since 1997, the carnivore specie has been afforded a better protection than in the past. Although census of leopard has not been conducted, the frequency of its appearance in the habitations indicates that their population might have increased.
Measures are being taken for handling of overall man-animal conflict situation in the state, he said and added that the Department of Wildlife Protection has formulated a comprehensive proposal for strengthening of Wildlife Department to deal with man-animal conflicts situations in the state. Substantial strengthening of the Department of Wildlife Protection, J&K is proposed in terms of the mobility, communication, equipments, trapping/translocation facilities, rescue centers, compensation package, honorarium to eco-development committees and awareness raising etc. The said proposal has been submitted to Government of India.
The state government has also constituted a high level coordination committee to ensure proper coordination between Wildlife Department, Forest (T) Department and Forest Protection Force especially in areas outside the declared protected areas.