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Kashmir militancy helped wildlife
A M Sofi in Srinagar
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January 19, 2007 11:35 IST
While over a decade long militancy in Jammu and Kashmir affected every walk of life, it has helped increase in the population of wild life manifold, according to officials of wildlife department.

The average increase in population of local animals and birds specific to the area is 20-60 per cent, chief wildlife warden Naseer Ahmed Kitchloo said.

The reasons are simple. The government asked the locals to deposit their arms with their respective police station when militancy started in late 80's in Kashmir. This was done to prevent the misuse of weapons and identify illegal ones. It meant that local hunters thus had no weapons, Kitchloo said.

And there is another more important reason behind the dramatic increase in wildlife - no one dares to venture deep into the forests these days for fear of being caught in exchange of fire between militants and the security forces, he said.

Poaching of wildlife has almost come down to zero in all these years, Kitchloo said.

And that is good news for endangered animals like the leopard, the snow leopard, the Hangul, a stag found only in Kashmir, which is closely related to the reindeer, and spotted deer.

Kitchloo said the manifold increase in the number of animals like leopards and beers is creating problems for people who have been attacked.

There has been a number of cases of leopards and bears maiming villagers in remote areas, he said.

Before the insurgency the Hangul population was between 100 and 120 in 1990 while the number was estimated to be over 250 in 2006.

The population of Himalayan black bear was about 700-800 in 1990 whereas today it stands at about 2,500-3,000.

Kitchloo said the number of leopards has also risen during this time.

A similar story applies to the musk deer, a rare animal, with between 2,000 and 2,500 believed to be alive today compared with 250 to 300 in 1990.

Likewise, the rare Pirpanjal Markhor goat -- specific to the Pirpanjal mountain range -- numbered between 100 and 150 in 1990. Now the numbers are estimated to be between 240 and 300.

This animal is sought after in many European countries that can fetch a minimum of $100,0000, Kitchloo said.

He said although bird counts are always a difficult task, rare and indigenous species like the Black Patridge and the Pheasant have increased by a minimum of 50 per cent since 1990.

Officials say security forces engaged in anti-militancy drive are under strict instructions against wildlife poaching.

But they do not rule out stray incidents happening and going unnoticed.

Kitchloo said the increase in wildlife was an encouraging factor for everyone in Kashmir.

It is an economy generator and a renewable resource, he said and as far as Jammu & Kashmir is concerned, it can also attract tourists.

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