An apparent attack on a bear in India, in which a mob tried to set the animal on fire, has prompted government inquiry into the incident.
Footage from the attack, which occurred in the Shopian district of Kashmir nearly a week ago, shows a bear desperately climbing a tree to escape the flames. It is poked by the mob with a burning cloth tied to a stick, according to India's NDTV. The bear reaches the top of the tree and cannot go any further, eventually becoming engulfed in flames, falling from the tree and escaping into the woods. Its fate is unknown.
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Vivek Menon, executive director of the Wildlife Trust of India, said citizens of Kashmir and across the country are angry about recent bear attacks and destruction to farms. "I think there's a general resentment and I think people are trying to take law into their own hands," he told NDTV.
He noted the discord as a possible reason for the bear being set on fire in Kashmir. "There has been a great land use change in Kashmir," he told the Agence France-Presse. "People are living closer and closer to the forests and therefore coming into contact with bears - and both people and bears are suffering." Recent bear attacks have exacerbated fears. "That is spreading fear and panic among people and resulting in absurd retaliatory measures."
The government has ordered an investigation into the attack, which occurred just two days before the International Conference on Bear and Research Management in New Delhi, NDTV notes.
Environment Minister Jayanthi Nartarjan demanded action be taken against those who attempted to set the bear ablaze, according to IBN Live, CNN's Indian Broadcasting Network.
The relationship between humans and bears in the country has long been a source of controversy. In 2009, the last "dancing bear" was set free after a five-year campaign to end the notorious practice of capturing, training and torturing bears to perform, Telegraph notes.
Growing populations and developing villages now threaten the animals.
India is home to four of eight species of bears, including the Himalayan brown bear, Asiatic black bear, Sloth bear and Sun bear, according to the Wildlife Trust of India. These species are threatened by poaching, retaliatory killings and habitat loss.
The five-day bear conference will focus on topics including bear-human interactions, and bear rescue and habilitation, according to the Times of India.
"Conflict is becoming a huge issue everywhere," Belinda Wright, Executive Director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, told NDTV, "not just with bears, with leopards, elephants, tigers; and we need to have good response teams and react to this very, very swiftly. We've got many more people than in the past and much less tolerance, sadly."
View NDTV's coverage of the bear set on fire in Kashmir below.
WARNING: This footage may be disturbing to some viewers.