Twin orphaned bear cubs given shelter near India-Pakistan border
Dawarian Pakistan June 16, 2021: Years of hostilities and an electric fence along a de facto border between nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan have taken a toll not just on humans. Wildlife has also been badly afflicted in one of the world’s most militarized regions.
The latest victims of the decades-old dispute are the offspring of two orphaned Ascetic bears found in Pakistan’s disputed Kashmir region. Muhammad Ashraf, an official with the Department of Forestry and Fisheries in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, said Sharda and Narda were discovered by villagers last year at an altitude of 14,000 feet (4,270 meters), and they were a sight to behold. They were unable to find the mother of the twins.
“Our guards and volunteers reconnected the area for about two months, but we did not find any trace of the bear in connection with the partition,” Ashraf said. He said the mother may have been hit by a Border Border mine or shell.
The bears was raised on bottled milk for two months, raised on fruits and vegetables, and gradually introduced to other foods, including wheat and corn. They are now busy climbing mulberry and walnut trees in the compound where they are kept, or sometimes in the tin-roofed shelter that houses a hatchery for rainbow trout, a daily audience for both children and adults.
The compound is just outside the village of Dawarian, about 66 miles (106 kilometers) northeast of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Rapidly flowing rivers and canals, waterfalls, glacial lakes and forests have made it popular with tourists. Kashmir has been a flashpoint since India and Pakistan gained independence from British rule in 1947 and have fought two wars in the region. Both countries control parts of Kashmir and claim full control over it.
Since then, a 12-foot-high fence has been erected in the area to mark the border. India built the fence, saying it was intended to prevent militants from crossing. But it has also made it almost impossible for wildlife to move freely to their natural habitat. “The bear cubs are just one example,” said Sardar Javed Ayub, head of the Wildlife and Fisheries Department for Pakistan. “They were born across this gap and when their mother died near the fence, they passed through some excavated part of the earth or under the fence.”
Ashraf recalled that a few years ago, department staff spotted a dead black bear in a river away from the fence. One of the legs was apparently blown up by a landmine and fell into a river, killing him. “That’s what happens to a lot of wild animals, but we rarely know about it,” said Ashraf.
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