‘Ecological threats endanger Hangul population in Kashmir’

SRINAGAR, OCT 26: In a concerning revelation, recent scientific studies have underscored the grave ecological threats that are equally jeopardizing the revival of the Hangul population in the Kashmir Valley.

 The Hangul, also known as the Kashmir Stag, is a critically endangered species native to the region, and its survival hinges on immediate and intensive conservation efforts.

According to the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Department, these scientific studies have indicated that the Hangul, if not afforded serious management and conservation interventions promptly, faces the grim prospect of extinction. The challenges confronting the Hangul population include not only biotic interferences but also significant ecological issues, which have a direct impact on the species’ population decline and long-term conservation and survival. Among these challenges are low breeding rates and disturbed viability.

The department has pointed out that predation, particularly by leopards and black bears, presents one of the most significant threats to the Hangul. These predators primarily target the young deer, compounding the already precarious situation for the species.

Decreased genetic heterozygosity has been identified as another key reason behind the sluggish population growth of the Hangul. This factor further compounds the challenges faced in revitalizing the species.

Despite these alarming concerns, there has been some improvement in the Hangul population over the years.

According to the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Department’s “Population Monitoring Exercise 2023,” the estimated Hangul population in the region has increased to 289, compared to 261 in 2021. While this marks an addition of 28 Hangul in the past two years, the department has cautioned that this increase is insufficient to ensure the species’ survival.

Habitat fragmentation and poaching have been listed as two major factors contributing to Hangul’s low population.

The degradation of Hangul’s habitat due to extensive biotic interferences, including excessive livestock grazing in its summer habitats, grass cutting, and the collection of fuel and firewood, has played a significant role in the decline of Hangul in recent times.

In particular, the department has highlighted the adverse effects of livestock grazing in upper Dachigam, emphasizing the competition for food resources and the potential transmission of diseases. There is documented evidence of the transmission of John’s Disease to Hangul in Dachigam in 1978, further underscoring the need for urgent conservation efforts and habitat restoration to safeguard this critically endangered species.

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