Kashmiri animals flourishing under conflict

The Kashmir conflict has claimed the lives of at least 40,000 people since since the Muslim separatist revolt began in 1989. For years now, the region has been steeped in insecurity and violence, with still no immediate settlement to the conflict in sight. But there is good news for other inhabitants of Kashmir. Wildlife officials ...

600314_asiaticbearforaging_05.jpeg
600314_asiaticbearforaging_05.jpeg

The Kashmir conflict has claimed the lives of at least 40,000 people since since the Muslim separatist revolt began in 1989. For years now, the region has been steeped in insecurity and violence, with still no immediate settlement to the conflict in sight. But there is good news for other inhabitants of Kashmir.

The Kashmir conflict has claimed the lives of at least 40,000 people since since the Muslim separatist revolt began in 1989. For years now, the region has been steeped in insecurity and violence, with still no immediate settlement to the conflict in sight. But there is good news for other inhabitants of Kashmir.

Wildlife officials in the region report that the population of endangered Asiatic bears has increased between 30 and 60 percent since 1989. Because of the increased security presence in the Himalayan forests—intended to root out militants—poachers have also stayed away for fear of getting caught up in the crossfire. “No one dares to go deep into the forests since the militancy started,” explains the state’s wildlife warden.

And it’s not just bears that the insurgency is helping: The general population of indigenous animals and birds has increased on average between 20 and 60 percent in the same time period. Elusive leopards, snow leopards, and hanguls, a type of stag found only in Kashmir, for instance, have flourished during the human conflict.

A similar phenomenon has taken place in Sudan, where thousands of animals thought to be in danger are repopulating despite the country’s civil war. Of course, this doesn’t mean that conflict is generally favorable for endangered animals. Some animals in Sudan have suffered what National Geographic calls “near-apocalyptic declines,” and you need look no further than the Democratic Republic of the Congo to see the devastation war can have on threatened species. Still, it does show that vigilance against poachers can have a remarkable impact.

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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