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Kashmir gears up to save endangered brown bears sited near Sonamarg

Brown bear clicked while looking for food

The Wildlife SOS conducted a study recently in Jammu and Kashmir with permission from the Wildlife Protection Department on the endangered Himalayan brown bear. These bears have been sighted a number of times in the State, bringing cheer to wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists.

The research which will be published shortly studied the bear distribution, their feeding patterns in the Sonamarg region and their interaction with human beings, for a period of six months, from May to October 2021.

Sonamarg was chosen as the area of study since it is a critical bear habitat which extends up to the Zojila pass.

The Regional Wildlife Warden, Kashmir Division, Rashid Naqash talking about the research remarked: “The Survey done by Wildlife SOS in the Sonamarg area gives us great data such as camera trap images of bears feeding on improperly disposed garbage. Using this we can somehow intervene and implement measures such as proper garbage disposal that will ensure the well-being of the brown bear.”

For the survey camera trapping was used and interviews with key stakeholders, locals, nomads, and army personnel conducted. The team also tracked animal footprints and scattering to have a better understanding of their behaviour.

Sharing details of the survey, Wildlife SOS’s Education Officer and Project Manager, Aaliya Mir remarked: “Sonamarg was our chosen study area as it is an integral brown bear habitat and has witnessed multiple incidents of human-bear interface in the past.”

The survey is expected to help mitigate human-bear conflict and aid in conservation efforts.

“This survey gave us data about the various anthropogenic pressures impacting brown bears such as the development of roads, tunnels and improper garbage disposal that lures in bears. Through the findings of the study, we aim to implement tangible measures that will conserve brown bears like putting up cautionary road signs or creating animal crossing zones. This will also allow us to create awareness amongst locals about co-existing with bears,” observed the Senior Biologist of Wildlife SOS, Swaminathan S.

The Himalayan brown bears or Ursus arctos isabellinus are found in the north-western and central Himalayas including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, West China, Tibet, and Nepal. Their habitats are found in high altitudes which range from 5,500 to 14,000 feet above sea level.

The animal is on the brink of extinction due to rapid habitat loss, human-animal conflict situations, militancy, and poaching for their fur, claws, and organs. They are protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

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