Faced with the threat of extinction of the highly endangered species of Hangul (Red Stag), the Jammu and Kashmir government is mulling to create linkage-connectivity in various wildlife areas to pave way for Hangul corridor across Kashmir region. Hangul is the State Animal of J&K.

Known for its giant antlers bearing 11 to 16 points, Hangul has been hunted over centuries and its habitat destroyed, leading to its population in the wild plunging to a mere 186 as per the last census held in 2015 as a result of which its status has become “critical”. This is the only population of the species existing in the world. What is worrying is the significant decrease in the female population of the species and sharp decrease in the female and fawn ratio.

Such a low population is at a high risk of extinction due to confinement and inbreeding. High level of leopard predation of the species has also put it in the “critically endangered category”.

This was stated by Minister for Forest and Environment, Lal Singh while presiding over the 12th Standing Committee Board meeting for State Board for Wildlife at Srinagar on Monday.

It was informed in the meeting that proposals have been formulated for connecting various wildlife areas for the genetic connectivity of isolated population with the main population of Dachigam National Park in Srinagar. The officials were hopeful that the magnificent Kashmiri Red Stag or Hangul would get protection with the establishment of the corridor.

During the meeting, the officials discussed the proposal for declaring 156 Sq Kms of Forest and Wildlife Sanctuary as protected land in Kashmir region. The proposed protected area shall be named as Tral Wildlife Sanctuary after historical Tral town.

The Board also discussed that the management of the area on scientific lines which shall ensure conservation and protection of this fragile landscapes as a viable habitat for the rare species of the area. The Board unanimously considered and passed the establishment of the wildlife sanctuary under sanction 17 of Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Act, 1978, amended 2002.

Hangul is present only in the Dachigam National Park and adjoining areas. This deer species was numbered around 5000 in the beginning of the 20th century, but were threatened due to destruction of habitat, over-grazing by domestic livestock and poaching. Its population dropped to 150 in 1970.

It has been included in the Species Recovery Programme of the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.