The Wildlife S.O.S. Awareness and Education programme in Kashmir valley run by education officer Aliya Mir is fast gaining popularity…
The Wildlife S.O.S. Awareness and Education programme in Kashmir valley run by education officer Aliya Mir is fast gaining popularity among the people of the valley and proving to be a huge conservation success, sensitizing the youth and the villagers of the valley to the value of their own wildlife. The programme which aims at spreading the word of conservation among the general public of the valley and thereby mitigating man-animal conflicts in the state has not been an easy task to accomplish, as often times the education officer and team has to face the wrath of the people for not doing enough to stop man animal conflicts in the state, but Wildlife SOS along with the staff of the J & K Wildlife department is still persisting in reaching out to the people to solve this problem and reduce conflict situations. J & K Wildlife Protection Department, recognizing that the conflict can only be reduced with the involvement of the local people, had taken the initiative to actively collaborate with Wildlife S.O.S. to intensify awareness campaigns.
One of the primary mitigation measures recommended by the collaborative study of Wildlife S.O.S. and J & K Wildlife Protection Department on man animal conflict mitigation whether bear or leopard was to create local capacity building. In this regard, some high conflict areas were first identified all over the valley.In those areas Wildlife sOS arranged special programmes. For example Wildlife SOS organized an inter-college Quiz and Symposium on â€œChallenges in the Conservation and management of Wildlife in J&Kâ€ where 21 participants from six colleges across Srinagar took part. The programme started with an inaugural speech from the Dr. Nasreen, HOD of the Zoology department followed by a speech from Regional wildlife warden, Mr. Nassir Kitchloo who reiterated the need for the young generation to work for conservation to save natureâ€™s treasures for the coming generation. Wildlife Warden Central, Rashid Naqash also spoke on the occasion encouraging open discussions on the issue of man animal conflict in the state.
Besides talking about the deforestation encroachment and poaching, each of the speakers also pointed out the lack of awareness among the people, corruption in the system, lack of professional approach of the system towards the conservation of wildlife and many other managerial issues. All the wardens from different regions and around 400 students from different colleges took part in the programme and took a pledge to work for the wildlife conservation in the state. In another attempt Wildlife SOS invited the elderly people of the villages around Dachigam to have an interaction with the Wildlife Officials. The gathering was attended by the Regional Wildlife warden, Mr. Nassir Kitchloo, Wildlife Warden Central division, Rashid Naquash, Range Officers and foresters of the department. This is the first time the officials and the common masses had gathered together and people felt free to express their worries. The Regional Wildlife Warden, Wildlife Warden and Dr. Shabir of the Wildlife Bio-veterinary wing cleared various misconceptions of the people about the nature, diet, habits, and behaviour of these two species that primarily encounter the villagers. More programmes of this nature are being organized to bridge the gap between the Officials and the people for understanding the situation on the ground.
Another programme organized by Wildlife SOS was with Iqbal Memorial School where an interactive session was held over dinner with the participants followed by a nature walk to the deer park next morning. The in-charge of the Park spoke to the group on the need of such parks for the conservation of the wildlife, allowing the animals their own safe zone without human interference. He deeply appreciation the role played by Wildlife SOS in the state.
Following this programme, Wildlife SOS organized a one of its kind programme wherein selected volunteers from the most conflict affected area in central division of Kashmir were brought to Dachigam. The volunteers were then addressed by the Wildlife Warden Central, Rashid Naqash, Dr. Shabir and the Ranger of Dachigam National Park about the role they can play in mitigating the conflict. They were informed about various factors which most often hamper the rescue operations such as a crowd surrounding the animal and the officials on duty so that they are often hampered in driving the animal back into the forest. The understanding of the people about the use of tranquilizing guns as an instant tool for capturing the wild animals was also discussed and they were made aware of the draw backs in such operations, the need to be accurate about the dosages loaded, the dangers to the public when such activity is undertaken with a mob pressing in onto animal and officers; that the seemingly tranquillised animal has to be taken swiftly to a safe release area etc. The programme has been much appreciated by the Chief Wildlife Warden as well as other officials.
In mid October, a team of Wildlife SOS and Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Department went to one such high conflict village which is located in the middle of the mountains surrounded by the continuous Himalayan ranges. In a gathering numbering up to 40 people, an interactive session was held. The villagers were told that the primary focus should be on solving the conflict and it should be a collaborative effort. They were sensitized towards the right of animals to live in the system in harmony with humans.
The Range Officer of Gander bal, Mr. Quyub explained the necessary procedures that should be followed to claim compensation if a person or his livestock was attacked. A list of Dos and Donâ€™tâ€™s that the villagers can follow while walking in the forest, working in the orchards or staying in their home was distributed by Wildlife S.O.S. education officer Mrs. Aliya Mir. The programme was concluded with plans to have more interactive sessions between the villagers and the wildlife department officials.
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