Census Of Endangered Hangul Shows Encouraging Trend26 March 2011
Srinagar: The census carried out to assess the population of critically endangered Hangul or Kashmir Stag in the Dachigam National Park and adjoining mountainous ranges has shown encouraging trends with the species spotted even outside the protected areas. Known for its magnificent antlers with 11 to 16 points, Hangul is the only surviving race of the Red Deer family of Europe in the sub-continent. Due to varied reasons including increased disturbances in its habitat, the stag is battling for its survival in its last bastion-the Dachigam National Park. The week-long census, which ended today, was carried out by the Department of Wildlife Protection in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India spanned over 450 sq. kms in Dachigam National Park, Dara, Nishat, Braine, Chesmashahi, Khanmoh, Khrew, Wangath, Shikargah, Hajin and Satura Wildlife Conservation Reserves and adjoining forest areas of Akhal, Najwan, Surfrao and Mammar. The massive exercise was undertaken by 360 persons including volunteers, researchers and students of Kashmir University, SKUAST-K, Wildlife Trust of India besides staff of Wildlife Department and Forest Protection Force. Officials said the indirect evidences of presence of Hangul, including shredded antlers, wallowing, droppings and hair have been sent to the Wildlife Institute of India for analyzing the species’ current population trends and establishing final figure. “By virtue of our initial findings during the census, we can say with confidence that there is an encouraging trend in population of Hangul,” Wildlife Warden Central, Rashid Naqash, who supervised the Census, told Greater Kashmir on the sidelines of a valedictory function to honor the enumerators. “The researchers and volunteers have witnessed direct sighting of the Hangul in Dachigam and its adjoining forests and conservation reserves. They have also gathered indirect evidences including shredded antlers. Importantly, this time we have spotted the Hangul even outside the protected areas. These factors point towards a considerable increase in the species population,” Naqash said. Experts said Hangul was once distributed widely in the mountains of Kashmir. Kashmir’s shikar map prepared by Maharaja Hari Singh depicts distribution of Hangul in a radius of 40 km spreading from Keran in Kishenganga catchments over to Dorus in Lolab Valley, Erin catchments in Bandipora to Baltal to Aru, Tral, and Kishtwar. Gradually, the population declined to about 1,000-2,000 in 1947 and subsequently as low as 250 in ‘70s. The remaining population is scattered in and around the Dachigam National Park. The census of 2004 estimated the population of Hangul at 197 while in 2008 it reduced to 127. The last census carried in 2009 estimated the population at 175 with increase in the male, female and fawn ratio. The 2009 census indicated that for every 100 females, there are 27 males and 28 fawns as compared to 23 and 9 respectively in 2008. “We are optimistic that the male, female-fawn ratio will also show an upward swing in the current census and this will subsequently lead to marked increase in the Hangul population in coming years,” Naqash said. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of threatened species assessment has categorized Hangul as endangered in 1996. Hangul is also listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Experts claim that since the onset of political unrest in the Valley in 1990, there have been no major reports of poaching of Hangul. However, in January this year, police arrested six persons accused of having poached a Hangul in Dachigam National Park from Khanmoh side. “During the current census, we spotted many male Hanguls and collected antlers shed by them. This is one of the good indicators that the gap between female and male Hanguls will be tapped,” said the Wildlife Trust of India’s Assistant Project Officer, Mansoor Nabi, who is also simultaneously undertaking survey on Hangul in Kashmir. The former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Abdul Rashid Wani said establishing the appropriate number of Hangul is a prerequisite for implementing conservation plans for them. “There is need to spread awareness about the Hangul among the people. You have to act as messengers rather eco-guns to make people realize the importance of Hangul and other wild animals,” he said. He said besides other ecological factors, the rising political tension between India and Pakistan is affecting the wildlife. “Kashmir is a bio-mass state and boasts of richest and unique biodiversity including wildlife animals. For conservation of its wildlife, it is not only the responsibility of the state government but also of India and Pakistan to enter into ecological agreement to save the environment and wildlife,” Wani said. Stanzin Landal, a student of SKUAST-K Wadoora who participated in the census, said it was for the first time she saw a Hangul. “I hail from Nobra Valley in Ladakh and feel privileged to have seen a Hangul. It was a learning and adventurous experience,” she said.