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Business News/ Opinion / Columns/  Action needed to restore harmony in ‘urban jungles’
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Action needed to restore harmony in ‘urban jungles’

Between 2019 and 2021, 125 people were killed by tigers in reserve forests

Dogs in our cities and metropolises are now more dangerous than even lions (Hindustan Times)Premium
Dogs in our cities and metropolises are now more dangerous than even lions (Hindustan Times)

An astonishing video emerged from a village in Somnath, a district of Gujarat. A lion from the forests of Gir strayed into this village at night. The village was deserted, and the king of the jungle was strolling through its streets. Then dogs in the village caught his scent and started barking. Though the lion ignored them for a while it turned tail when they turned more aggressive. The villagers realised what had happened that night after reviewing CCTV footage of the incident.

Dogs in our cities and metropolises are now more dangerous than even lions. In the wild, lions ambush prey, but strays in cities attack openly barking and chasing you down any street. These terrifying incidents from New Delhi that occurred on 10 and 12 March bear testimony to this. On 12 March, stray dogs mauled a child in Vasant Kunj. The attack was horrific. Relatives found parts of the child’s fingers scattered across a wide area after the attack. The boy died even as his young brother lay in hospital struggling for life after a similar attack by a pack of strays two day prior. This child, too, died later.

There are so many such occurrences that writing about them would take dozens of pages. There is no part of the country where stray dogs haven’t caused havoc. What is the reason behind such attacks? Domesticated animal-rearing and upkeep laws are quite old and have became irrelevant. A pit bull terrier killed its owner in Lucknow a few months ago. Many more attacks by pet pit bulls and such other dangerous breeds were reported after that, but no substantial action was taken. Numerous municipal bodies launched pet animal registration campaigns, but their attempts were futile.

People who enjoy having pets make certain mistakes unknowingly. They forget that stronger dogs require open, long terrain to run for 6-10 kilometres. Nature has bestowed them with the ability to hunt their own food. It is natural for them to grow hostile when we confine them in a small enclosures and feed them ready-made food of our choice. Many countries have laws prohibiting the raising of predatory breeds of dogs. In India, the banned list should be reviewed as well. Besides, it is also vital to provide information regarding pet vaccinations, training, and safety precautions. Is there a system like this in any local body in the country?

Now let’s talk about other stray animals. Along with dogs, nilgai, bulls, oxen, and other such animals are involved in fatal attacks. A bull crushed to death two people who were taking a morning walk in Jamshedpur last month. Several of our cities were already notorious for their traffic accidents and road robberies, and now stray animals have added to the list of woes.

It is also necessary to discuss monkeys in this context. Many people express their gratitude by feeding chickpeas and such other foodstuff to monkeys for religious reasons, but the simian population is another threat we face. Dozens of such incidents are reported from every city where monkeys have caused significant harm to life and property. The time has arrived to take essential precautions to protect human life, while also loving animals.

A social and political awakening is required in this regard. On 3 March, Britain’s prime minister Rishi Sunak went for a walk in central London’s Hyde Park with his family and their dog. The dog was not chained as required by park regulations. The police stopped Sunak and his wife and read them the rules concerning the matter. The Sunaks apologized and immediately followed the instructions. Can such a scene play out in India?

Now, let’s talk about wild animals. The number of animals in forests is growing, and at the same time human populations are encroaching on areas surrounding forests. The circumstances lead to man-animal conflicts. According to a report tabled in the Lok Sabha, 1,579 people were killed by wild elephants between 2019 and 2022, of which 322 were killed in Odisha alone. Jharkhand was next, where elephants killed 291 people during this period. Between 2019 and 2021, 125 people were killed by tigers in reserve forests, and 61 of them dying in Maharashtra alone. Animals have become violent, no doubt, but at the same time people are also increasingly hunting them. Poachers killed 29 tigers between 2019 and 2021, while 222 elephants were electrocuted in the same period.

This never-ending cycle violates the rules of sharing natural resources such as water, forest and land. Stopping such conflicts needs urgent action.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. Views are personal.

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Published: 02 Apr 2023, 11:32 PM IST
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