Over rising fear that the endangered Kashmiri stag Hangul may soon become extinct, the environment ministry has decided to step in and initiate a conservation process to check its fast dwindling population.
The horned stag, which is found only in Dachigam National Park in Kashmir, has been reduced from thousands to around 200, raising an alarm over the possibility of its extinction.
The environment ministry has, therefore, decided to step in to conserve the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir through funding and other technical assistance, official sources said.
Top ministry officials have sought "inputs and advice" from experts in a national wildlife panel so that it can take up "mid course corrections" in the conservation of the stag, the sources said.
The ministry has asked a sub-committee consisting of members of National Board for Wildlife to draw out a plan for time-bound implementation of the Hangul project, they said.
A top Jammu and Kashmir wildlife official told PTI that the ministry's decision to revisit the recovery programme of the animal will boost the fund flow and technical assistance for conservation of Hanguls.
"We had prepared a recovery programme for the endangered animal. It is under revision. The process will complete soon.
We are expecting that the funding will increase for the Hangul recovery programme," the official said.
The ministry had earlier sanctioned Rs 22 crore for the recovery programme of the near-extinct species, but due to "some reasons" the state wildlife Department received only Rs 3 crore for the conservation, officials said.
Dachigam National Park, located 22 km from Srinagar, was once the exclusive hunting reserve of the Maharaja of Kashmir.
Dachigam was declared a national park in 1951.
According to latest estimates by NGO Wildlife Trust of India, the number of Kashmiri stags in Dachigam has been reduced to 200.
Historically, the Hanguls were distributed widely across the state "from north and east of Jhelum to lower Chenab rivers, from Shalurah in the north to Ramnager in the south", and even in Gamgul Siya-Behi Sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh.
"However since the 1960s, Dachigam's has been considered as the only viable population of the species," says WTI.