Environmentalists are finding the presence of Hangul, the Kashmiri Stag, good news as the Kashmiri breed is becoming increasingly extinct.
PULWAMA (J&K) —
In Kashmir, although the population of Hangul (Kashmir stag) has been declining for the past several years, which has been a cause of concern for experts, a number of Hanguls have been seen this year in the southern Valley’s Tral Shikargah, a lesser-known tourist place.
A senior official of the Wildlife Department, wishing anonymity, said that they had installed cameras in the Shikargah (a forest area) which are activated by the movement of any object. “We have recovered some horns, which suggest that there are at least 14 Hanguls here, which is a welcome development,” he said.
However, he said that the stag is mostly found in higher reaches and very rarely come down in search of food. “We avoid giving publicity to their presence because it has consequences. Poachers take advantage of the information if available in the public domain. Therefore, we usually prefer not to reveal their exact location and number.”
On the other hand, environmentalists and the local people, who also confirmed the presence of Kashmir stag, are finding the presence of Hangul satisfactory as the Kashmiri breed is becoming increasingly extinct.
Sartaj Singh, a local resident, told Digpu that the deer also damaged his orchards in March this year, but alleged in the same breath that the important tourist spot has been overlooked.
Another local, Bashir Ahmed Mir argued, “If the Wildlife Department claims that there are Hanguls here, then why is this place hidden from the eyes of the government, why is there a lack of cleanliness here?”
Pertinently, a multi-crore centre for breeding Hangul was built nine years ago at the tourist spot in Tral, but the public is now demanding an account of the money spent on the breeding centre.
Although, a Hangul was brought to the breeding centre by the Wildlife Department, it was only a one-night stand, locals alleged. “It is not known whether it was eaten by the earth or swallowed by the sky,” they said.
Farooq Trali, head of Citizen Council Tral, said, “Millions of rupees have been spent on arrangements for breeding Hangul in Shikargah, but it has not been used fairly. An accountability commission should be set up.”
When we asked the same question to Range Officer in Tral, Iqbal Khursheed, he said that people keep levelling all sorts of allegations but we know that how the situation in the Valley unfolded. “Coupled with the lockdown due to COVID-19, the project has come to a standstill. But we are hopeful to resume work on it as soon as the restrictions are eased.”
About the Hangul’s disappearance from the breeding centre, he said, “Department had brought an injured Hangul but the centre was not much secure those days. However, as per my knowledge, it was killed by a wild animal as it overpowered the injured stag in the breeding centre.”
Meanwhile, Chief Wildlife Warden, KS Gupta visited the area along with other officials of the department after the presence of Hanguls was confirmed. He had told the media persons that steps were being taken to create a natural environment to save Hangul.
It is important to mention here that the Tral Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected wildlife corridor for the endangered Kashmir Stag, Hangul. The sanctuary is spread over an area of 154.15 square kilometers.
The Kashmir stag is a subspecies of the elk native. It is known for its magnificent antlers, which can have 11 to 16 points.
Hangul is the only surviving Asiatic sub-species of the European red deer family, found only in Kashmir.
It should be noted that the number of Kashmiri Hanguls has been declining for decades. According to researchers, the total population of Hangul was more than 5,000 during the 1940s, but by 2019, it had dropped to 237 only.