Srinagar July 20 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, stag or Kashmiri hangul, one of the world’s most endangered species, is on the verge of extinction due to increasing interference in its habitations.
Scientifically known as Cervus elaphus hanglu, hangul is the only surviving race of the Red Deer family of Europe in the sub-continent. The animal is battling for its survival in its last bastion, the Dachigam Park located on foothills of Zabarwan range on the outskirts of Srinagar. Experts blame excessive livestock grazing, predation, habitant degradation and forest fires for the declining population.
Known for its magnificent antlers with 11 to 16 points, hangul was once distributed widely in the mountains of Kashmir. During early ‘90s, their number was believed to be about 3,000-5,000. According to the population estimation carried by the Department of Wildlife Protection and subsequent analysis by Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the hangul population has been reduced in between 117 to 190. The hanguls are now scattered within 141 sq km of the Dachigam Park.
“The current trends indicate that the species could go extinct if necessary serious interventions are not made immediately,” states a group of scientists from the WII who had recently carried survey on hangul. Quoting previous studies, the researchers have highlighted the problems confronting hangul due to disease transmissions from the sheep and goats leading to vulnerability of the species due to health problems. “Habitat degradation due to the collection of firewood, small timber and palatable foliage for cattle by local people has also been reported and strongly recommended that in order to maintain suitable food available for hangul in winter, the habitat degradation must be completely stopped,” it states, adding, “Frequent uncontrolled fires in the recent years may have adverse effects on hangul population, by removing escape cover.”