New Delhi: Feral dogs are on a rampage in Ladakh, preying on exotic wildlife species and attacking people as they thrive on leftovers from unchecked tourism and mushrooming tent-dhabas in the sparsely populated high-altitude region of Jammu & Kashmir.
According to Leh Wildlife Warden Pankaj, these are ferocious, intelligent creatures and hunt in packs. “These are mainly seen in Hanle, Tso-Moriri and Tso-Kar lakes straddling the Changthang plains, about 250 kms from Leh. Their number is growing in Leh and Nubra as well.”
These dogs are threatening the region’s exotic wildlife species, some of which could become extinct if the menace goes unchecked. Most notable among the threatened species is the black-necked crane, J&K’s state bird. In addition, these dogs are now attacking much larger animals such as the Tibetan wild ass, known as ‘Kiyang’ in the local language. One such incident has been recorded by a Mumbai-based wildlife researcher Saurabh Sawant.
“The Changthang plains are the nesting ground for migratory birds. All these are ground-breeders and lay their eggs on the ground. The dogs eat the eggs, which can threaten the future of the species. Himalayan marmots too are falling prey in a big way,” Pankaj said.
He put the number of feral dogs at 3,500-4,000. “It is considered safe if the number of stray dogs is 3% of human population. It is 30% in Ladakh (Census 2011 population of 1.33 lakh).” The effect can be telling due to the thinly spread out population.
Two separate incidents in 2014 and 2015 have been recorded, according to which a woman and a teenage girl were killed by these dogs in Saspol and Spituk village, respectively, near Leh. Locals say numerous other incidents of non-fatal attacks are not reported to authorities.
Much of the blame is put on tourists and unregulated waste disposal by tent-dhabas and security establishments dotting the landscape. “Irresponsible tourists feed the dogs or throw around leftovers. The dhabas just dump trash with food during the tourist season. But once these food sources vanish in the harsh winters, the dogs become desperate and turn on humans and wildlife alike,” one field official said requesting anonymity.
Since the law doesn’t allow culling, sterilisation costly and practically difficult due to the vast expanse, dogs are having a field day in Ladakh.
Date: 18 Dec 2018