Tales from Sikkim: Man animal conflict

The morning is particularly nippy and considering that we are in the middle of summer with an almost full blast of monsoon it seems a bit weird that one. Everyone talks about climate change and global warming so I assume safely that the weirdness of local weather can be ascribed to it without having to worry about misplaced proprietorship conundrum.

Sipping my morning tea I ponder how far the aftermaths of this global issue has affected us and I am sufficiently nudged towards an issue, the bear menace in the state. The issue of bear menace has gripped the state of Sikkim in a regular recurring manner that could be a direct consequence of this global meteorological disarray.

Well the bear species found in these parts, to be more specific the eastern Himalayas, is the Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus), one of its biological behavior is hibernation. It hibernates during extreme winter months of December and January that sometimes stretches almost up to February, which definitely is a relief for the local populace.

Now there are many interesting facts surrounding their hibernation, that they sometimes give birth during this period is definitely one such event, although this has never happened on my watch but it is not unheard of. However, the one that has a relevance to the issue in discussion is the fact that they feed voraciously before retiring for these few months. Understandably being a creature of considerable stature they have a physiological need to have a thick layer of fat reserve in their bodies to sustain them in their sleep during the harsh winter months. The fodder in the jungles in the months of October & November provides for this phenomenon naturally. The flowering and fruiting season for most of the fruit bearing trees like figs, avocado in this temperate belt are in the month of September/October whence our adorable and yet dangerous bears happen to feed on these bounties in generous proportions.

Now it has so happened that these plants and trees are bearing flowers and fruits way ahead of time or past their usual time, this erratic flowering and fruiting behavior could very well be a direct consequence to the climate change scenarios. Hence there is nothing left in the months of October and November when the bear requires its maximum fodder so what are its options? The human settlement areas closest to the jungles naturally have to pay the price for this irregularity as the bears come to the habitation zones and are in constant conflict with the humans.

So here we go, bearing the brunt of our own follies yet again.

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