Srinagar: Once present in thousands across the mountainous range of Kashmir, ‘Hangul’ (Kashmiri Stag) or royal stag has almost neared its extinction as there has been a drastic decline in its population over the years.
According to the official data, the population of the only surviving breed of red deer was 5000 few decades back; however the same population has shockingly been reduced to 182, which depicts the magnitude of declination the Hangul population of Kashmir has witnessed.
Hangul is also called as Cervus elaphus hanglu as a scientific name and is presently rarest animal in the area.
The surveys have portrayed the astonishing results as in 1950s the population of the animal was 5000 and in 1957 the number had gone down to 400.
According to census 2011 the population of the Hangul is just 220.The experts opined that the political instability in the region, human interference, poaching and habitat destruction has led to the extinction of Hangul.
In 2013 Hangul was also declared as endangered by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) & Wildlife Protection of India. However, several arrangements were made by government of Jammu & Kashmir and state wild life department to save Hangul. The sub-species are found in Dachigam National Park, ShikargahTral, Doru, Lolab, Bandipora, Aru, Wadwan, Tilel and Bhaderwah.
Many projects have been launched in Kashmir to save Hangul and various buffer zones have been set up by Jammu & Kashmir Wildlife department in Khrew,Khunmouh and Dagvan Dara, a wildlife official said. He also said that the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory has 5 National Parks 14, Wildlife Sanctuaries & 37 Conservation Reserves.
Although the successive governments have time and again expressed concern vis-a-vis the declining Hangul population, however a serious attitude was never adopted to save the species that is close to extinction. “Poaching is the main cause of Hangul extinction, the government and wild life department should frame stern laws on poaching, another local wildlife expert said.
A senior Wild Life official said that the population of Hangul has increased with the efforts of Wild Life department from last many years as department has launched new tactics.
As per the departmental census 2013, the number has increased from 220 to 279. “We only recommend our data as it is done on collaborative basis; we have nothing to do with the data provided by IUCN and other agencies”, he added.
However, a survey in 2019 conducted by collaring the hangul has revealed that the species is no longer confined within the walls of Dachigam National Park. The endangered species has now begun to use an old migratory route which spread through Sind Valley up to Tulail in Gurez Valley.
The corridor was last known to be active in the early 1900s. The authorities attribute the decline to several reasons which includes poaching and disturbance in the habitat Hangul. Meanwhile, the conservation efforts have yielded only minimal outcome.”The conservation was initiated the methods included establishment of a breeding centre to breed Hangul in captivity.
The breeding centre has been established at Shikargah Tral in South Kashmir. This process has been initiated,” a senior official at department of wildlife revealed.
The officials revealed that concrete steps need to be taken towards the Hangul conservation or else the species would vanish. (KNT)