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Ashiq Hussain, Hindustan Times
Srinagar, September 16, 2012
Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to raise Hangul, an endangered species of red deer found only in Kashmir, in a captive breeding centre for reversing the population decline of the animal. The plan came to fore after vice president of India, Mohammad Hamid Ansari visited Dachigam National Park, the only abode of Hangul in Kashmir, managed by wildlife department in Srinagar.

"Under the Species Recovery Programme, a captive breeding centre will be commissioned for the breeding of Hangul at Shikargah, Tral (in south Kashmir) and thereafter the animals will be released in the wild," said divisional forest officer Rashid Naqash, while briefing the vice president.

The Hangul (Cervus elaphus hanglu) is a critically endangered species of deer listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and is the only survivor of the red deer group in the Indian sub-continent.

Poached for its meat, antlers and skin, the deer's population has shown a decreasing trend from 1940s as its numbers fell to just 900 in 1989 from around 3000. Furthermore numbers stooped to below 200 after insurgency paralyzed the state administration as militants and army battled each other deep in the forests, the main abode of this shy animal.

However, officials revealed that as per the last census of 2011 the number of Hangul recorded in the Park was 218.

Informing about the measures taken by the government for the conservation and propagation of Hangul, Naqash stated that a long term Hangul conservation plan was being implemented with the support of the union ministry of environment and forests.  

Similarly, a Habitat Research Study has been initiated in collaboration with agricultural university for satellite collaring of Hangul in order to understand the movement patterns and the habitat, both in and outside the Dachigam National Park.

The official said that an important research programme has been launched to study the relic population of Hangul outside Dachigam National Park in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of India.

Besides Hangul, the 141 sq km park is home to Himalayan black bear, common leopard, Himalayan langur, red fox, Himalayan marmot, leopard cat, jungle cat, Himalayan mouse hare and musk deer. The Park also has over 150 species of birds, dotted by 50 species of trees, 20 species of shrubs and 500 species of herbs.