Leopards are on the prowl in many districts and are frequently being spotted in apple orchards or near residential areas. Two horrible incidents that recently occurred in two districts (Budgam & Ganderbal) have caused panic among people and also made us realise that children are vulnerable to attacks by leopards.
All wild animals which live in natural habitats have behaviour that is quite different from animals which we rear as pets. Human-wildlife conflict is not new and has a long history that helps us understand the factors that drive wild beasts to residential areas. Humans have greedily exploited nature, particularly forests, which is why we don’t value such valuable gifts. We have destroyed the natural habitats of these creatures to meet our own demands, which ultimately forces these wild animals to come down to villages and cities, looking for food and shelter.
Forest areas are declining very fast in Jammu and Kashmir due to two main crucial factors: cutting down of trees and construction of houses in eco-sensitive areas. Such man-wildlife conflicts will continue to occur in residential areas till humans do not understand the causes and consequences of this confrontation. The loss of a life is the greatest of losses, especially for the family. We must understand why wild animals take shelter in residential areas. The reason is that these animals have lost their natural habitat owing to human interventions, which have caused an ecological imbalance in our region.
In J&K, the wildlife department is not coming up with any new technical innovations. Old-fashioned machinery is still being used to trap wild animals. It often happens that the department does not pay heed on being informed about movement of such animals until something bad happens. I openly assert that the wildlife department is not showing much concern to rising incidents of conflict with wild animals.
In Budgam, a 4-yr-old girl fell prey to a leopard while playing in the compound of her house. The leopard took her to a forested area and it was after 24 hours of a search operation that she was found dead. This week only, an incident took place in Zazuna village of central Kashmir’s Ganderbal where a 3-yr-old girl was mauled to death by a leopard. The news instantly surfaced via social media that a girl was taken away by a leopard while she was accompanied by her grandmother. Both were in a car which was parked at one side of the orchard. It was said that her parents were irrigating the apple orchard when a high-pitched scream was heard. They ran hurriedly towards the car, in which they did not find their daughter inside. Soon after, the parents started wailing and people came out of their houses to search for the minor. It was after hours of searching that the girl was recovered in a critically wounded condition from dense forests and taken to Sumbal hospital. Before reaching the hospital, however, she breathed her last. Her sudden death shocked the whole village. May Alalh give sabre jameel to her family and relatives to bear this irreparable loss.
These incidents may continue to happen until and unless we try to comprehend the underlying facts of this confrontation. I leave it open to those who want to debate on this issue for the common good of all.
Some of the characteristics of the leopard are:
1. It pounces on humans without giving any time to escape.
2. It frowns terrifyingly while attacking humans.
3. It attacks in seconds and escapes in microseconds.
4. It has flexible jaws with long pointed two canine teeth in upper and lower jaws that help kill a prey immediately and carry away the injured body.
5. It can run at a speed of 58kms/hr.
6. Children are vulnerable to this wild beast as it can carry them away easily.
7. It hides in bushes and sits on trees to watch the movement of prey.
8. Its paws are powerful enough to pin down the prey.
Precautions you can take to save yourself and your children:
1. Don’t go alone in the garden for cutting grass and other chores.
2. Never stay in forested areas for long hours.
3. Don’t stay long hours at hilly areas where wild beasts have been seen.
4. Don’t allow your children to play outside till late evening.
5. Never forget to close your gat and windows before going to sleep.
6. Keep vigil at night at least for one hour for the movement of leopards in your village.