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Kashmiri Hangul categorised verge of extinction by scientist

Satellite tracking used to study endangered Kashmiri Hangul’s behavior and population decline.

Amit Pandey, Nainital


The only Asiatic survivor of the red deer, Hangul, has been declared (the locally) critically engendered wildlife species in the Red List of The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in 1996. It has similar categorisation in the list of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which has India as a signatory. It has been incorporated in Schedule 1 of both the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 as well as the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978.

A.K. Singh, Chief Wildlife Warden of Jammu and Kashmir, put Hangul’s population at 175 in March 2009 and 218 in March 2011. The department conducts a census every two years with technical support from WII. Findings of a recent census are still under formulation. The 1989 census puts the number of Hangul at 900, indicating its fall towards the verge of extinction in the last 23 years of the armed insurgency and counterterrorism in Kashmir. However, some people like the retired Range Officer Mohammad Ashraf Mir insist that the numbers should be higher as armed poaching came down to zero due to thick concentration of security forces.

It is a rare subspecies of red deer found only in the Kashmir region. The population of these magnificent animals has dwindled drastically over the past few decades, with only an estimated 200 individuals remaining in the wild. The main threat to their survival is habitat loss, as their forested habitat is being rapidly destroyed due to deforestation, human encroachment and climate change.

Poaching is another major factor that threatens Kashmiri Hangul, as it remains a prized target among hunters and poachers, despite being a protected species under Indian law. The illegal trade of Kashmiri Hangul antlers is a highly lucrative black market that fuels poaching and threatens Hangul’s survival.

Conservationists have been working tirelessly to halt the decline of the Kashmiri Hangul population by implementing measures to restore their habitat, establish protected areas, and raise awareness about the importance of protecting this unique subspecies. These efforts must be intensified, however, as the Kashmiri Hangul is now teetering on the brink of total extinction.Steps need to be taken to limit poaching and enforce strict penalties for poachers. The involvement of local communities in the protection of wildlife is essential, as is developing economic incentives to promote sustainable use of wildlife.

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