The Uttarakhand Chief Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank' has called for urgent steps to reduce the man- animal conflict and ways to provide better security to the wildlife.

Presiding over the State Wildlife Board meeting here on Friday, Mr Nishank expressed distress over the increasing rate of man- animal conflict. Leopards were straying into human settlements and killing or maiming women and children and the men retaliated by killing the cats. This situation could be improved by ensuring better habitat which was being badly mauled by men seeking rapid earnings through foul means. Once the habitats were full of water and prey the cats would not enter villages and kill or get killed in the process, he said.

A similar serious situation prevailed over the elephant population that had taken to raiding villages and even killing human beings. District Hardwar and Rishikesh area were worst affected by this menace. Over 50 elephants and an equal number of humans have got killed in the conflict over the past few decades sparked off by fragmentation and over exploitation of the traditional habitat and elephant corridors by development projects as well as encroachments. This situation, Mr Nishank said could be reversed if the forest officials and local population joined hands to improve the habitat and reduce human interference in the forests.

The Chief Minister directed officials to open information centres where the visitors could be educated on the wildlife and how they should behave with them.

Karon Hilton, MLA, Chief Wildlife Warden K. L. Arya, Additional Forests Secretary Sushant Patnaik also spoke.