Friday, 2 September 2011

Kashmir border fence affecting wildlife

Jammu, Sep 1 (IANS) Landmines have killed and maimed many wild animals straying into the barbed wire corridor marking India’s Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.

The barbed wire fencing is around 500 metres to two kilometres inside, depending on the topography of the territory India controls, and mines have been laid along it to deter infiltration.

Started in 1990 and completed in 2004, it runs from flat plains through thickly forested mountains to high passes.

The Indian Army might be right to claim that infiltration of militants is down to negligible because of it, but the wildlife department insists the fence is having an ‘adverse affect’ on the animals close to it.

‘The fence has blocked the corridor of animals in the areas and restricted their free movement to and fro,’ a wildlife department official said.

Some of the animals affected are monkeys – including rare Rhesus and langur – black bear, leopard, musk deer, pigs, samba and many species of reptiles. ‘Many ground nesting birds have also come under the impact,’ he said.

‘It has also fragmented the habitat of wildlife here,’ he added. Animals that had gone over to the Pakistan side when the fence was being erected have remained there and vice-versa.

‘Many of them got killed or maimed in blasts,’ the official said while regretting that the department could not put a number to it. ‘However, going by the cases reported, it is a fairly large number.’

He spoke about a deer with a lost hind leg: ‘With the help of the Army, we got an artificial leg fitted and left it loose in the forest.’

Has this brought any behavioral change in the animals? ‘Changed behavior changes take time to study but the increasing frequency of animals damaging crops and man-animal conflict can be attributed to this.’

The black bear is known to go into hibernation for six months from November. ‘But these days we have sighted them in January and February,’ the official said. ‘It means that they feel lost in new habitats and are not finding their places of hibernation.’

A senior Army officer said: ‘We try to drive them away whenever we notice. Moreover, when an animal steps on a landmine, the explosion makes others cautious. Yet incidents keep happening.’

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