Ecology and Environment
31st May, 2019
A massive decline in the population of Kashmir’s iconic wildlife species, the Hangul (Cervus hanglu hanglu), also known as the Kashmir stag, continues to be a big concern as conservation efforts for it, going on for years, have not yielded any significant results so far.
Hanguls in India:
- Today, Hangul, the state animal of Jammu & Kashmir, is restricted to the Dachigam National Park some 15 km north-west of Jammu & Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar.
- From a population of 5,000 in the early 1900s, the Hangul’s numbers have constantly declined over the decades.
- According to the latest survey in 2017, the population of Hangul is 182 in Dachigam and adjoining areas.
- Earlier population estimates suggest that there were 197 Hanguls in 2004 and 186 in 2015.
- Small isolated Hangul herds of five to ten have been reported from adjoining areas of Dachigam which include Shikargah-Tral and the Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary in south Kashmir.
- It was once widely distributed in the mountains of Kashmir and parts of Chamba district in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh.
- The IUCN’s Red List has classified it as Critically Endangered and it is placed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the J&K Wildlife Protection Act, 1978.
Why is Hangul population declining?
- The biggest challenges in the way of conservation and population growth of Hangul are habitat fragmentation, predation and very low fawn-female ratio.
- Another challenge is the male-female and fawn-adult disparity in the Hangul population. There is a female-biased ratio of 23 males to every 100 females. The female-biased ratio and the fawn to female ratio of 30:100 are the two main reasons for the declining numbers of Kashmir’s Hangul.
- Fawns are also predated upon by the dogs of security forces deployed in forests and the dogs of nomads who graze their herds in areas which are Hangul habitats.
- An important part of the conservation project for Hangul is to study the food habits, breeding patterns and movements of the species in and out of its habitat and tagging the animals with satellite collars.
- There was a 66-hectare sheep farm in the lower part of the Dachigam National Park. Since 2002, the wildlife department had been consistently pleading with the sheep husbandry officials that the farm is acting as a huge disturbance to the habitat of the Hangul. Now the farm is removed helping in conservation of Hanguls.
- Another conservation measure taken by the wildlife department in recent years is a project for improving the population of the Hangul through ex-situ breeding. The breeding centre, along with some infrastructure over a five-acre forested area in south Kashmir’s Shikargah-Tral was started a few years ago.