SRINAGAR: The number of endangered Asiatic black bears in Kashmir has jumped between 30 and 60 percent as militancy related violence that killed thousands of people since 1989 has scared off poachers, wildlife officials say.
An increased security presence in Himalayan forests to root out militants, as well as a ban on hunting, has helped curb poaching and allowed the population of bears to increase from between 800 to 900 animals in 1990.
Officials say poachers – who hunt the mammals for their fur, paws for food and gall bladder for traditional Oriental medicine – have stayed away from the pine and conifer forests, fearing they will get caught up in the insurgency.
“For fear of being caught by security forces, militants or in an exchange of fire between the two, no one dares to go deep into forests since the militancy started,” said a Kashmir wildlife warden.
The threatened black bear inhabits hilly and mountainous forests across Asia from Afghanistan to Taiwan.
It is a protected species and remains listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Leopards – also an endangered species in country – have similarly increased, said officials, but did not give details.
“Besides frequent sightings of leopards and bears, the attacks by these wild animals on people have registered a sharp increase in past several years,” said Mohammad Yaqoob, another wildlife official.
Dozens of people have been killed by bears and leopards and scores of others have been injured. Only a day ago a man was critically wounded when a bear attacked him at Chendegair area of Sonawari in Bandipora district.