Kashmir stag on verge of extinction

etala’at

Srinagar, Oct 16: With a population of only 190 the last race of Hangul is battling for its survival in the lush green forests of Dachigam National Park.
Large scale biotic interference due to habitat fragmentation and subsequent degradation is one of the major causes of the decline in Hangul population.
Hangul (Cervus elaphus hangul wagner) has been declared a critically endangered species and assumes a great significance since it is the only last Asiatic survivor of red deer.
According to wildlife experts the historical distribution of Hangul had a limited distribution and was once distributed widely in the mountains of Kashmir with small population outside Jammu Kashmir in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh.
The distribution was limited to an arc of 65 km in width, north and east of Jhelum and lower Chenab River, from Shalurah in the north to Ramnagar in the south.
However in the recent past Hangul population has drastically declined from its past distribution range, possibly due to large scale biotic intrusion and at present the viable population of Hangul occurs only in the Dachigam National Park and few in the adjoining areas.
Speaking to etala’at, Regional Wildlife Warden Kashmir, Farooq Jeelani said “The population has shown a decreasing trend from 1940`s to 2006 in Dachigam and according to a census of 1970 the specie has been declared as critically endangered.
Then another census was done in 1990 which put the number around 600. But that census doesn’t hold too much of credibility and there were several flaws in that survey. The number might have been less than that.
But the population is surely on decline and the latest survey done in March 2006 by Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun puts the number at 190 which explains that the trend is on decline,” he said.
According to Farooq, the Department of Wild Life is closely monitoring the situation and findings have revealed overgrazing, biotic interference, sheep rearing and drastic shift in predator – prey ratio contributing to the decline of Hangul.
“Biotic interference, overgrazing of cattle and presence of sheep farm near the habitat have contributed to the decline.
Besides traces of Hangul fawns have been found in leopard diet which indicates that there has been an increase in attacks from predators.
The predator-prey ratio between Leopard- Hangul has observed a major shift and according to a survey which is going on for the last four years there has been a sudden increase in the leopard population inside the Dachigam park which has disturbed the Predator-Prey ratio between leopard and Hangul resulting in a drop in the number of young fawns who fell prey to leopards,” revealed Farooq.
Highlighting the importance of habitat management and scientific intervention to put a check on biotic interference and need for a long term Hangul conservation project, Farooq said
“Efforts are on to shift the sheep rearing farm form the territory and we are seeking technical support to locate the summer house of Hangul through satellite so that we could trace their distribution in summer months when they show an upward pattern of movement.
This will update the process of habitat preservation and we could come up with an artificial breeding centre to monitor the changing trends in population.”
He further said “There is a need for a long term Hangul conservation project and a detailed report has already been sent to the central ministry of environment and forests which is waiting for the necessary approval.
The project will be on the guidelines of Project Tiger and will have a separate project officer who will monitor the overall program.”
Speaking on the issue, Wild life Warden Dachigam Park, Rashid Yehya Naqash said “The trend has shown several fluctuations in the past and I don`t see it as a drastic decline as the viable population always remained dwindling.
In 1972 the population was somewhere between 150 to 172 and in 1992-1996 the population touched the 300 mark.
The recent survey by Wildlife Institute of India Dehradun puts the number as 190.
And there may be more fluctuations till the male-female ratio stabilizes as the ratio of female fawns has shown remarkable increase in the last few years.”
Yehya further said “We need to have a viable population. With the old one`s doomed to collapse within the next five years we need to have a population of disease-free fawns who could survive and breed in feasible conditions.”

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5 Comments

Filed under asia, biodiversity, endangered, environment, extinction, mammal, nature, wildlife

5 responses to “Kashmir stag on verge of extinction

  1. Nadeem Qadri, President & CEO, KGECL

    Kashmir Geographic Eco-Coop. Ltd. has opted to Act……
    Join the campaign to save the Kashmir Stag (HANGUL)

  2. Kashmir Geographic Eco-Coop. Limited a registered environmental organisation and is requesting to all those who want to be a part of our Save Hangul Campaign to register their names with contacts on volunteer basis, so that we can gather the defined knowledge about the real status of this endangered speicies….
    Email: kashmirgeographic@yahoo.co.in
    or Call: +91-9419971524

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