Sunday, 18 September 2011

Army to save Kashmir stags

Jammu, Sept 18 (IBNS) There is good news for wildlife lovers in Kashmir. For the first time in past many decades, the population of Kashmir Stag (red deer), popularly known as ‘Hangul’ has increased in the strife torn state and now army is joining hands to protect them.  

The Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI), an infantry regiment of the Indian Army mostly consisting of volunteers from the state of Jammu & Kashmir, is collaborating with J&K state forest department in saving this magnificent animal and has started a “Save Hangul Campaign”.

Hangul or ‘Cervus Elaphus Hanglu’, is the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir. Found mostly in the forest ridges of the Dachigam National Park and wildlife sanctuary and surrounding forest areas in Kashmir, the majestic animal is known for its reddish coat and two antlers.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) had put the Hangul in its Red List, as endangered in 1996. Hangul is also found in the list of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of wild Flora and Fauna.

Their dwindling numbers have been attributed to poaching, loss of habitat due to dam projects and presence of military and paramilitary forces in the valley.

“Due to ragging conflict in valley the number of Hangul was on decline. Last year the number was 172 and this year it has reached 218,” said Shant Manu, Commissioner Secretary, Forests, J&K government adding that the number of Hangul has started to increase.

Thanks to the state’s conservation programme, the population of this exquisite red deer has increased to 218 from 172. The J&K wildlife protection department in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has been regularly monitoring the Hangul population in Dachigam National Park and its adjoining areas since 2004.

Recently, the department got a fresh census report conducted through Wild Life Institute of India, Dehra Dun in areas of Dachigam National Park, spanning Braine, Khanmoh, Chesmashahi, Wangath, Khrew, Deer Conservation Reserves, Surfrao, Akhal, Mammar and Najwan which revealed that Dachigam National Park and its adjoining areas house 218 red deer. 

The population of Hangul or the Kashmir Stag was 197 in 2004, 127 in 2008 and 172 in 2009. The JAK LI which has a chequered history and has worked on Siachen Glacier, in Sri Lanka during Operation Pawan, in UN Peacekeeping in Somalia and also in Kargil war and has also a Param Vir Chakra for Naib Subedar Bana Singh to its credit, is now all set to save Hangul.

Shant Manu, who called for collective efforts to save the endangered species, thanked JAKLI for launching “Save Hangul” campaign and added that their patriotic favour, commitment, training and discipline will be a great boon and asset in the conservation efforts for this wonderful animal.

Major General JP Alex, head of JKLI Centre, Kashmir valley said that JKLI will start conservative efforts and it will be spearheaded by the regimental officers association and “now on JAKLI would adopt the Hangul as a mascot”.

“Preservation of Hangul is challenge for us and the challenge begins now,” said Brigadier Somnath Jha of JKLI adding they will hereafter actively engage with the wild life authorities to work out the modalities and take this endeavor forward.

Chief wildlife warden of J&K A K Singh said his department is making efforts too since the stag or the Hangul would once roamed around in tens of hundreds in large swathes of valley, but is now on the verge of extinction.

Hunting, loss of habitat and several other factors have caused a decline in their numbers sounding alarm bells, he added. The J&K government is planning to start a captive breeding of the Hangul to save the state animal from becoming extinct.

Conservation Breeding Centers for Hangul are being set up at Shikargah-Tral and Darwudri-Mamar plan to create a gene-pool of the animal for posterity. What will give a new lease of life to Hangul is a Rs 22-crore species recovery plan for conservation of different endangered animals.

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