The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is going to declare the Kashmiri Red Stag (also known as Hangul) as a Critically Endangered species. The critically endangered status to the Kashmiri Red Stag will help it to get more protection and enhance the conservation efforts to increase its rapidly declining population.
About Kashmiri Red Stag:
• The Kashmir Stag or Hangul is a subspecies of elk native to India. Earlier it was believed that it is a subspecies of red deer. But mitochondrial DNA genetic studies have revealed that it is part of the Asian clade of elk.
• It is found in dense riverine forests in the high valleys and mountains of Kashmir Valley and northern Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh.
• This deer lives in groups of 2 to 18 individuals in dense riverine forests, high valleys, and mountains of the Kashmir valley and northern Chamba in Himachal Pradesh.
• In Kashmir, it's found in the Dachigam National Park (at elevations of 3,035 meters), Rajparian Wildlife Sanctuary, Overa Aru, Sind Valley, and in the forests of Kishtwar & Bhaderwah.
• In 1957, a report published by E. P. Gee, considered Hagul as the most endangered species of India along with Asiatic Lion and One Horn Rhino. Unfortunately, it is the worst conservation state compare to two currently.
• Kashmir stag is the only surviving Asiatic member of the Red Deer family.
• Only the male stag have antiers. Their antiers are very beautiful and can have upto 16 points in it.
• Hangul is the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir of India.
• Once found in high attitude regions of Northern India and Pakistan, the Kashmiri stag is now continued to only Dachigam National Park in Kashmir. It has been considered as one of the rarest mammal in the subcontinent since 1950s.The Dachigam National Park has been badly affected by terrorism and Hanguls are killed by terrorists just for meat.
• Their society is matriarchal.
Threats and conservation:
These deer once numbered from about 5,000 animals in the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately, they were threatened, and now fall under the critically endangered category. This dwindled to as low as 150 animals by 1970.
However, the state of Jammu & Kashmir, along with the IUCN and the WWF prepared a project for the protection of these animals. It became known as Project Hangul. This brought great results and the population increased to over 340 by 1980.
As per Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) nearly 3000 to 5000 Hanguls existed around the 1940s. But at present, only about 150 of them survive within its last bastion in Dachigam National Park located on foothills of Zabarwan range on the outskirts of Srinagar, J&K.
It has been listed under Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and J&K Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978. It also has been listed among the top 15 species of high conservation priority by the Central Government. Reasons for decline in population:
• Habitat destruction,
• Over-grazing by domestic livestock, and
Criteria for Critically endangered:
• The IUCN is a leading non-governmental authority on the environment and sustainable development. It is also involved in data gathering and analysis, research, field projects, advocacy, lobbying and education.
• Critically endangered is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List to wild species. There are five quantitative criteria to determine whether a taxon is threatened. A taxon is critically endangered when the best availabile evidence indicates that it meets any of the following criteria:
I. Populations have declined or will decrease, by greater than 80% over the last 10 years or three generations.
II. Have a restricted geographical range.
III. Small population size of less than 250 individuals and continuing decline at 25% in 3 years or one generation.
IV. Very small or restricted population of fewer than 50 mature individuals.
V. High probability of extinction in the wild.