Friday, May 14, 2021

Meet Farooq Ahmad, the fearless caretaker of wild animals

Pahalgam: Farooq Ahmad, from Lari’Pora Pahalgam, fell in love with animals and wildlife at a very young age and has been taking care of dangerous animals at WildLife Sanctuary, situated in one of the famous health resorts of Union Territory Jammu and Kashmir’s Pahalgam.

Ahmad—who has been in the profession for 12 years—has to travel two Kilometres to reach, as he refers it, his ‘second home’, to look after and feed the wild animals such as Himalayan Black Bears—a couple named as Noora and Noori—, Brown Bear named as Sultan, Snow Leopard, Common Leopard, Civet Cat and Leopard Cat.

Farooq said, “My mission is to educate people around the world about wildlife and the beauty of the animal kingdom. I believe in the power of knowledge, passion, and visual stories in order to change peoples’ perceptions and save the wildlife.”

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When asked about whom he loves the most among these fascinating yet dangerous animals, Ahmad said, “Well I treat them all equally but to be honest, I’ve raised Noora and Noori since they were just over a month old, I’ve held them in my arms and fed them milk, bathed and combed them.”

With a smile on his face, he added, “So obviously! I’m more inclined towards the couple.”

Even though Noora and Noori are adults now and certainly pose a threat if not in a good mood, Ahmad believes that the couple remembers his years of love and affection towards them and every time he serves them food by entering into their den, he just feels they’ll never hurt him.

Ahmad said that by their facial expressions he is able to recognise if they are in a good mood or not, and accordingly approaches them.

“I pamper them while serving food, indeed it’s risky but that’s my job here, they’re like my children and I do enjoy it.”

He shared that since childhood he was inclined towards treating animals nicely and taking care of them, but had no idea he’ll be serving wild animals in the future.

Talking about one of the encounters with a snow leopard in the year 2010, Ahmed said, “It was in the afternoon, I was outside my home when I noticed the footprints of a leopard leading into the forest. I had to travel through the same route, so I followed it. Around 15 minutes into the walk, I noticed the fierce animal at somewhat 20-25 meters away from me.”

He said, “He (Leopard) wasn’t aware about my presence behind him as he led my path. At one point into the wilderness he disappeared, that’s when I decided to bang and create a noise with a utensil I was carrying at that time, to ensure the leopard isn’t hiding behind any tree or into bushes.”

“I didn’t move an inch from the spot, cause if he had seen me and was hiding somewhere, it was quite possible he would’ve attacked but after a few minutes I got a call from forest rangers who informed me that they had just seen the leopard coming down from the wilderness,” said Ahmad.

He added that it was one the fascinating encounters he had with the beautiful yet one the dangerous species of cats on planet earth.

Apart from the wild animals Ahmad adores, he has a family who– surprisingly for most of us— think positively about his profession. They said that Ahmad has a strong nerve that enables him to take care of these fierce animals in the Wild Life Sanctuary of Pahalgam.

Ahmad further said, “I’ve always advised people not to interfere or destroy the wildlife and be cautious, whenever they go into the wilderness for adventures. People should refrain from making too much noise because that irritates the animals living there, for whom the forest is home.”

Ahmad also believes that youth of Kashmir should take interest in wild animals and treat them kindly.

He said, “Just like us, they have a soul, they are living beings and when I hear about people killing them for one reason or the other, it hurts me.”

He added, “In Kashmir, if people find any wild animal in their locality, they should refrain from hurting them or tease them which makes them aggressive,” adding, “Just contact the wildlife department officials and let them do the job which they are trained for.”

“I request everyone not to put their life at risk by attacking these wild animals, and of course! Not to hurt them at all,” Ahmad emphasised.

Ahmad wants to serve these God’s beautiful wild creatures as long as he is fit to do so. (KNB)

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