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What’s wrong with forests? Wild animals make a beeline for human habitats

Something seems to be seriously wrong with the forests around Punjab,located along the Shivalik Hills.

Something seems to be seriously wrong with the forests around Punjab,located along the Shivalik Hills. Wild animals are making a beeline for human habitats,leaving their natural surroundings — with the result that they are either getting killed or suffering serious injuries.

In the last one month,there have been at least five cases where wild animals — from leopards to blue bulls — strayed into residential areas. While two of them were killed,one was injured and is recuperating at the Chhatbir zoo. The rest two were sent back unhurt to their natural habitat.

On November 19,a leopard was found dead in Khera Kalmot village. While the recovery of the body rang alarm bells in the wildlife department — a high-level committee of wildlife officials and police officers was constituted to look into the case with circumstances pointing towards poaching — the residents of Khera Kalmot had other reasons to worry.

“The villagers claimed they had never seen any leopard in their area before,though some of them said they had seen some smaller wild animals,” said Ropar DFO (Wildlife) S P Singh,who is one of the members of the committee. He added: “The wild animals stray into human habitat because forest areas have shrunk and are decreasing.”

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In Batala,a sambar died on Tuesday during an unprofessional rescue operation,as the “ill equipped” wildlife officials used sticks and ropes to catch the animal. “Taking a note of the Batala incident,the department has served a show-cause notice on Gurdaspur DFO (Wildlife) Varinder Pal Singh Sandhu. Guard Sunil Saini has been placed under suspension,” said Punjab Chief Wildlife Warden Gurbaj Singh.

In the first week of December,the industrial town of Mandi Gobindgarh found a stag roaming in the city. It took personal intervention of Forest and Wildlife Minister Tikshan Sud to move the wildlife officials to rescue it. The stag was released in the Siswan forest region. As the stag rescue operation was on in Mandi Gobindgarh,another team of the wildlife department was busy in Patiala district to rescue an injured blue bull. It was taken to Chhatbir zoo for treatment.

A couple of days ago,a black sambar was rescued in Ferozepur district,said DFO (Wildlife) Sanjeev Tiwari.

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While some officials blame the straying of wild animals out of jungles to weather conditions getting colder in upper reaches of the Himalayas,there are others who believe “interference of humans” in the Shivalik hills are causing the exodus.

“When the wild animals reach Shivalik hills from the Great Himalayas region,they get exposed to humans,as vegetation in Shivalik is comparatively very less. The urbanisation,residential colonies and other activities around the Shivalik,too,affect the density of forests around. Subsequently,animals stray into Punjab,” said Chief Wildlife Warden Gurbaj Singh. “Apart from leopards,sambars,bear and stag,creatures like Indian Rock Python (a snake species),too,have strayed into the human habitat,” he added.

To save the rich biodiversity of region from sand and stone mafia,Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh,during his visit to Chandigarh in September this year,had indicated to declare Shivalik region that touches Punjab,Haryana,Himachal Pradesh,J&K and Uttarakhand as a biosphere reserve corridor.

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“If the project materialises,it will put a check on the trickling of wild animals to human habitats to a great extent,” said Gurbaj Singh.

First published on: 17-12-2010 at 11:29:28 pm
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