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HomeDelhiConservation Efforts Underway to Save Threatened Markhor in Kashmir's Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary

Conservation Efforts Underway to Save Threatened Markhor in Kashmir’s Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary

Like Hangul, Kashmir is the home to Markhor, a near-threatened species. Officially they exist in the protected areas at Hirpora (Shopian) and Kazinag. The recent census suggested the goat numbers have gone down hugely in Shopian unlike Uri.

Amit Pandey, Nainital

For two decades now, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife Protection (DWP) in Jammu and Kashmir is working to conserve the Pir Panchal Markhor. The Astral Foundation is supporting the initiative. Kashmir is the only home to the critically endangered Hangul (Cervus Hanglu) and the near-threatened Markhor (Capra Falconeri).Of the region’s five National Parks (NPs) and 15 Wildlife Sanctuaries (WLSs), the Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary in Shopian is special. Alongside the Kazinag National Park in Uri, it hosts a viable population of Kashmir Markhor.

Spread over 341 sq km, the Hirpora WLS, around 80 km south of Srinagar, was established in 1987. Its location is fascinating. Surrounded by Gumsar Lake in its north, Hirpora hamlet in the north-east, Rupri to the east, Saransar to the south, and the Pir Panjal pass to the west, it encompasses various habitat types, including mixed coniferous forests, sub-alpine scrub forests, subalpine meadows, and alpine habitats.

Besides Markhor, the largest wild goat in the world, the Sanctuary hosts Himalayan black bear, Himalayan brown bear, and Kashmir musk deer. It has nearly 130 documented bird species, including the Himalayan Woodpecker, Spotted Forktail, Western Tragopan, Rock Bunting, Rufous-Breasted Accentor, Blue Rock Thrush, White-Capped Redstart, Himalayan Griffon, Common Stonechat, and Grey Wagtail.

Poaching is a major threat to the Markhor and species in Kazinag and its surrounding areas. Khazir mentioned Lachipora Wildlife Sanctuary and Naganari Conservation Reserve as key locations where poachers have been reported with firearms and other equipment. The migration of these species to lower elevations during autumn and winter exposes them to increased risks.

In coordination with the Markhor Watcher groups, efforts have been made to confiscate licensed firearms owned by local communities in and around Kazinag during the winter season.

Addressing the impact of climate change on mountain ungulates and their habitat is crucial for their survival. The vulnerability of the Himalayas to climate change underscores the need for proactive conservation measures and sustainable practices to mitigate the potential risks and protect these unique species and ecosystems.

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