Himalayan Bears in Kashmir Having too Much of Plastic, Chocolates and Biryani: Study
Image Courtesy: Needpix.com
Srinagar: A study of the shy Himalayan bear found in Jammu and Kashmir has found that 75% of the brown bear diet in the region is plastic, chocolates and Biryani in what is seen as a “shocking” revelation about the wild animal on the brink.
The study by Wildlife SOS, an India-based wildlife conservation charity, comes after increasing conflict of humans with Kashmir’s largest mammal, which was once a rare sight due to its presence in mostly high alpine pastures.
The report has found that much like their counterpart in Yellow Stone National Park, the Himalayan Brown bears are also “raiding” garbage and are rapidly becoming accustomed to this.
The Wildlife SOS team conducted an in-depth diet analysis of the Brown bear following the authorisation from the J&K Wildlife Protection Department to study scats of 408 Brown bears.
“The results of which revealed that 86 bears have excreted plastic carry bags, milk powder, and chocolate covers in their scats. Some scats even had remnants of glass,” the study has found.
“As much as 75% of all that Brown bears consume comes from garbage, which means that their frequency to scavenge garbage is much higher than eating wild plant matter, crops, and even hunted sheep,” the study showed.
The report is titled “Himalayan Brown Bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus) Ecological and Human-Bear Conflict Investigation In Kashmir With Special Reference To Bear Habituation To Garbage Dumps In The Central Wildlife Division.”
The study has also revealed that the natural diet of fresh plants, insects and small mammals of the Himalayan bear has been replaced by improperly disposed high-calorie foods, like the famous Indian Biryani, a finding that the organisation said was detrimental to the wild animal. “Food items from waste can be harmful to the gastric intestinal structure of the Brown bear, leading to severe ailments and shortening their life span,” the Wildlife SOS said.
The Himalayan Brown bear treads the mountainous terrains of the Himalayan range in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and Nepal, and so they have long eluded researchers. “What we do know about this mysterious creature is that anthropogenic pressures are slowly pushing them to the brink of extinction,” the SOS team said in a statement.
The Wildlife SOS team in the survey, conducted between July 2021 and October 2021, also identified certain hotspots where the bears raid garbage sites. “These were sites in Sonmarg and at the famous pilgrimage and tourist destination, Amarnath camp,” the teams said.
“During the study period, the number of bears spotted at the Sonmarg garbage sites ranged from one to three every day! At the garbage site of Amarnath holy cave camp, 11 Brown bears had been observed,” the study has found.
The study has also found that the bears were not the only animals being lured by garbage; the research team also found evidence of other species, like marmots and the elusive Asian ibex munching on trash.
The report added that many development projects in the region are also “influencing the prevailing scenario.”
“For example, a proposed township project between the Sonmarg and Baltal region was recognised as a potential threat to Brown bears since it would largely occupy their prime habitat,” the report said.
The Wildlife SOS team has submitted a list of recommendations to the J&K Development Authority and the Tourism Board, among other stakeholders, including creating proper waste disposal management.
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