Meet Kashmir's sole female wildlife conservationist who has spent 17 years rescuing wild animals
The issue of human-animal conflict in the Kashmir valley has grown tremendously in the last few years, and that kept Kashmir's sole female wildlife conservationist Aaliya Mir extremely busy. Aaliya has been rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals for over 17 years.
She has become a household name in the Kashmir region after her videos of rescuing wild animals went viral a few years ago. She is Kashmir valley's first female wildlife rescuer and also is the programme head with Wildlife SOS Jammu and Kashmir.
Aaliya has been rescuing snakes, bears, birds, leopards, and other animals. However, her videos rescuing snakes from gardens, houses, schools and roads went viral and made her famous in the valley.
She faced a lot of challenges in the beginning as she was entering a profession dominated by men. And it was not the team she worked with but the people on the ground which were a challenge to her. The people never at first believed that she was leading the team and always ignored her till they would see her rescue the animal.
''There are difficulties everywhere, but it also depends on the team you are working with. I can't be thankful enough to the almighty, that I have the best teammates and the working atmosphere was encouraging. The team did not make me feel that I am the only woman in the field. I feel blessed to have such a work environment. Everyone was supportive."
"The challenge was when we go among the local people, there you feel that the people listen to men more over women. But I have been able to make that impression through my work. The people always thought I was just a part of the team, and some would even tell me to go home, but when they saw that I was leading the team and saw me work, the mindset would change within sometime after that. I am thankful to Allah that I have been able to break the stereotype and change the perception of my society, '' said Aaliya Mir, Project Head, Wildlife SOS Jammu and Kashmir.
Aaliya is a postgraduate in Science And Mathematics and started her journey into the wildlife as a student only. She later got married to a Veterinarian doctor which helped her in exploring the field better. Aaliya says the satisfaction of rescuing an animal and saving a life is what keeps her going every day.
''Urbanisation is happening at a fast speed and then development. We are not against development, but we are advocating sustainable development. We are not against tourism, but we support eco-tourism. I am supervising two research projects too; I don't only do rescue but also research. I am running two centres and supervising research projects in Kashmir. What we saw was due to tourism, there is a huge change in our environment, we need to handle tourism in a better way. Brown bear was a dream to see in the valley, but now you put out some waste outside and you will see a brown bear, why is this happening ? waste management is a failure, all wild animals get attracted to the waste. Leopards come as they see a lot of dogs near the waste dumps. That's why leopards are roaming in cities and not jungles. We are doing multi-cropping in the paddy fields and that's why wild animals like bears come to these areas." she added.
Aaliya was given a Wildlife Conservation award by the Jammu and Kashmir government for her exceptional efforts in conservation of wildlife. Aaliya is the first woman in the region to receive this award.
The human-animal conflict in the region has been on the rise, with 2022 as a year of record-breaking human animal conflict incidents in the region. Urbanisation and waste management are the main reasons for the rise of these incidents in the valley.