Hangul or the Kashmir Stag is the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir. It’s population is mostly found in teh Dachigam National park which is near Srinagar. Kashmir Stag found in Jammu and Kashmir is the only surviving population of red deer in India.
A recent government survey carried out by Department of Wildlife Protection and Wildlife Institute of India has brought to light the declining population of Hangul in the state. According to the IUCN’s red list, Hangul is categorized as one of the endangered species in the region.
FACTS ABOUT HANGUL (KASHMIR STAG)
The torso of Hangul features a bright rump patch, and the inner sides of his buttocks are greyish white. It has a dark coat with speckling in the hair.
The males of the species have splendid antlers with 11 to 16 points and long hair on their necks, whilst the females lack similar traits. Seasons and age cause the brownish fur of Kashmir Stags to alter.
Hangul was previously thought to be a subspecies of Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), however mitochondrial DNA genetic tests have revealed that it is a member of the Asian clade of the Elk (Cervus Canadensis). It belongs to the Central Asian Red Deer (Cervus hanglu) group, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Dachigam National Park, 15 kilometres north-west of Jammu & Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar, is home to Hangul, the state animal of Jammu & Kashmir.
The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and the J&K Wildlife Protection Act, 1978 both include the Hangul in Schedule I.
The Hangul script was previously widely used in Kashmir's mountains and sections of Himachal Pradesh's Chamba district.
It is designated as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, as well as the Wildlife Institute of India's (WII) Species Recovery Programme and the MoEFCC's Environmental Information System (ENVIS).
POPULATION OF HANGUL
The Hangul's population has steadily dropped throughout the decades, from a peak of 5,000 in the early 1900s.
The Hangul is as important to the state of Jammu & Kashmir as the tiger is to the entire country of India.
It is the European red deer's lone Asiatic survival or subspecies. However, the declining population of the state animal is a major issue.
In 2007, the population of Kashmir red stags was estimated to be 197. In 2009, it reached 234 people. However, in 2009, its population began to decline, and in 2011, it fell to 218 people, then to 186 in 2015. Its population has shrunk to 182 people according to the most recent census in 2017.
The Kashmir state wildlife department established a captive breeding centre in Shikargarh, on the Srinagar-Anantnag route, in 2013. However, a leopard preyed on a fawn just days after it was moved as part of the breeding operation. The breeding centre has been malfunctioning and non-operational since then.
Another area of concern is the declining sex ratio. Before the 1990s, the male-to-female ratio ranged from 21 to 51 males per 100 females. However, the male-to-female ratio has dropped to roughly 12 males for every 100 females. This disparity has resulted in a drop in the birth rate, which is cause for concern. If the population of Kashmiri red stags is to be expanded, the sex ratio must be restored to normal within a certain time frame.
The Hangul is one of three severely endangered species in J&K, according to the IUCN Red Data Book, which contains lists of species at risk of extinction.
The Markhor, the world's largest species of wild goat found in Kashmir and parts of Central Asia, and the Tibetan antelope, or 'Chiru,' are the other two.
THREATS TO HANGUL
• Experts have highlighted habitat fragmentation, predation, and a relatively low fawn-to-female ratio as the most significant obstacles to Hangul conservation and population expansion.
• The population's growth is threatened by a lack of desirable breeding and fawn survival.
• The Hangul population's male-female and fawn-adult disparities are another difficulty.
• For years, the influx of animal herds from nomadic settlements into the Dachigam National Park has been a problem.
• Nomads have been unable to graze their herds in such pastures since the army closed off their traditional paths leading to over a dozen mountain meadows (in Gurez) during the start of the armed conflict in Kashmir.
• During the summertime, they take their enormous herds of animals to the higher reaches of Dachigam.
• Other threats to the Hangul population include the Common Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, and nomads' dogs preying on fawns.
In the 1970s, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, with the help of the IUCN and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), devised a plan to safeguard the Hangul or Kashmir stag's habitat.
The programme for the conservation and protection of Kashmir Stags became known as Project Hangul, and by 1980, the population had grown to 340. Artificial breeding of the critically endangered Stag, as well as other measures for its protection and conservation, were part of the Rs. 1.677 crore five-year initiative.
HANGUL CONSERVATION PROJECT
The Wildlife Conservation Fund was founded in 2010 with the goal of safeguarding wildlife and wilderness in Jammu and Kashmir's UT, beginning with Hangul conservation. It was to be accomplished through community support, wildlife awareness, and management. It also attempted to change people's attitudes about nature and foster human-animal peace.
Wildlife Conservation Fund developed the Hangul Conservation Project. WCF intends to address concerns involving several Hangul species in Kashmir, particularly in the Dachigam National Park.
It should be emphasised that the project failed to meet its aims since locals did not participate in it. In addition, the project was limited to a 10-kilometer radius around Dagwan.
Furthermore, government offices approved the construction of cement factories near the Dachigam National Park, causing wildlife to be disturbed.