Foreign, fast-breeding species could serve as prey for leopards, easing pressure on endangered Markhor
SRINAGAR: The highly militarised Line of Control in Kashmir may be adequate for border troops to keep intruders at bay, but it may have let in wild pigs that are thought to have sneaked over this line, into Limber and Lacchipora Wildlife Sanctuaries of the Kajinag forest range in northern Kashmir, a research has revealed.
These wildlife sanctuaries that are home to the endangered Markhor and a host of other species are considered as one of the most important wildlife assets in the state.
The research reveals that neither the villagers living in this region nor the troops guarding it are aware of the pigs’ presence.
The top wildlife official here, Intezar Suhail, who was part of the study titled ‘A first report of the presence of the Indian Wild Pig Sus scrofa cristatus from Kajinag Range, Kashmir, India’ carried along by Dr Riyaz Ahmad of Wildlife Trust of India, told Kashmir Reader that the wild pig was first sighted in April 2010 and the second time in October 2014.
Suhail said that both Limber and Lachipora Wildlife sanctuaries were game reserves during the Dogra kings’ reign prior to 1947. At that time, wild pigs were introduced in wildlife as they were considered a better game than deer, though there is no specific record that suggests introduction of wild pigs in Dachigam, the only forest reserve that is home to the highly endangered Hangul, the Kashmir stag.
Walter Lawrence in his book ‘The Valley of Kashmir’ (1895) has written that the introduction of this non-native species of pigs took place under Maharaja Gulab Singh, the founder of Dogra rule in Kashmir and the first Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, after he took over in 1847.
Lawrence wrote that the wild pig is known in Kashmiri as ‘bad’ and it was introduced in the time of Maharaja Gulab Singh. At the time Lawrence wrote, the wild pig was common in the game preserves.
He also mentioned that in winters the wild pig was generally found at below 6000 feet, but in summers it ascends to 8000 feet and over. The pigs inflicted damage to crops at both altitudes.
Suhail believes that the present population arrivals from across the LoC are due to the proximity of the range with the Line of Control.
The Kajinag range occupies the north bank of river Jhelum in Uri, close to the Line of Control on the northwestern side and the Shamshabari mountain range (Langate Forest Division of Kupwara District) to its north.
He said that even though the LoC is fenced, these animals could sneak in, and be responsible for the present population found.
Suhail said that there is also the possibility of a remnant surviving population from the game preserves, though the LoC cross-over is a much stronger possibility.
Dr Khursheed Ahmad, head of the Mountain Wildlife Research at SK University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Shuhama, is credited with locating wild pigs in Dachigam National Park, where they were thought to be absent, in 1984. He told Kashmir Reader that wild pigs in the Kijinag range do move across the LoC and the present population is a result of these crossovers.
Khursheed found wild pigs during April 2013 at Dachigam Park. His team detected them using camera traps in lower Dachigam.
Though experts call it an invasive species, they also say that wild pigs can provide an alternate source of food to leopards in these sanctuaries, easing pressure on the endangered Markhor.
Suhail said that these pigs breed at a fast pace and their population can serve as additional prey for the leopards.