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Tuesday, May 29

Study confirms presence of near extinct Hangul population outside Dachigam NP in Kashmir Valley



Image Credit: Lovenaimals.com
All may not be lost for the near extinct Kashmir red deer, Hangul, with just around 200 individuals surviving within the 141 square kilometers of Dachigam National Park in Jammu and Kashmir. A new study confirms the presence of Hangul population outside the National Park and also shows evidence of other suitable habitats for Hangul in Kashmir Valley. 


Designated as the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir, Hangul is presently known to inhabit Dachigam National Park only. However, the study shows that the adjacent areas of Wanghat Naranag, Chandaji and Overa Aru also have confirmed presence of the animal year around. In addition to these areas, Rajparian–Daksum also is predicted as a highly suitable habitat for Hangul population. These findings effectively extend the presence and suitable geographic range of the survivor of Asiatic red deer species in India by approximately 1591 square kilometers.

The finding is important for the conservation of the animal which once enjoyed a much extensive geographic range from Kishtawar to Gamgul Siahbehi Wildlife Sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh.  The Department of Wildlife Protection, Jammu & Kashmir have conducted surveys to assess the status of Hangul population in the past, but has found no evidence regarding the existence of the animal outside the National Park.  “It has, as per reports, been extirpated from Himachal. The department of Wildlife Protection, J&K in its annual counts of Hangul cover some of the areas in this range (largely the ones adjacent to Dachigam). No information existed for most of the areas outside Dachigam. It was therefore important to visit those areas physically and figure out if Hangul was still present in these areas, based on evidence”, says Dr. Rahul Kaul, Chief Ecologist at Wildlife Trust of India, who was part of the study. 

The model used in the study predicts Wang hat–Naranag, Chandaji–Diver Lolab, Overa–Aru, and Rajparian–Daksum areas to be highly suitable habitats for Hangul presence outside Dachigam National Park. According to the study, the substantial vegetation connecting these areas with Dahcigam is possibly functioning as corridors for the animal to move to these areas from the National Park.  Conservation of these forest patches as corridors will be important for the conservation of the species, says the study.

The shrinking of the extant population of Kashmir red deer to the National Park can be detrimental to its existence.  For instance, the limited population inside a restricted geographic range has increased the instances of inbreeding (breeding between organisms which are closely related genetically). This has severely affected the genetic diversity of the Kashmir red deer population at Dachigam National Park, shows a past study. According to scientists, such an erosion of genetic diversity due to inbreeding makes the population vulnerable to disease onslaughts and is often a cause for local extinction. Moreover, another study has shown that the Hangul population in the National Park has a five per cent decline annually. 

The present study also indicates that conservation measures and policy initiatives may be needed to replenish the Kashmir red deer population outside Dachigam National Park. While the Hangul population at Overa-Aru and Tajhwas-Baltal areas may increase with the improvement of its source population at Dachigam, other areas, especially Wanghat-Naranag and Chandaji may need supportive conservatory measures to improve the population, recommends the study. It suggests that the Hangul conservation breeding programme by the forest department and Central Zoo Authority should consider releasing the individuals to these areas primarily.  However, according to sources, the conservation breeding facility lacks a founder Hangul population and is thus non-functional at present. 

As per the findings, Hangul has low tolerance to deviations from the optimal conditions of its habitat. It prefers forest patches and open temperate and broad leaved forests away from agricultural areas. The study also points out that conservation action in the lower altitude areas are also important as they are needed for the animal for wintering and fawning.

However, the ongoing conflict situations are also a major challenge for the conservation of the Kashmir red deer which has high potential to go extinct in near future. The present study also faced challenges due to the conflict situation. Of the six watershed areas identified as relict sites of Hangul population, researchers were able to conduct the study only in five as access to the six was restricted due to security issues. According to a researcher who was part of the study, the challenges were more in the border areas.  

4 comments:

  1. I think there population is just 50

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Idrees Bhat,

      Thanks for the comment. As per the last population estimation by the forest department, Hangul population inside the national park is roughly 200. moreover, this number is about the population inside the NP and new research shows that there could be Hangul population outside the Park also. Though poaching and other issues are rampant and its population is declining, we hope that their number is not down to 50. in that case, this will be just a matter of time before this majestic animal gets wiped off from our forests.

      Delete
  2. Dr Anwaruddin ChoudhuryJune 3, 2018 at 9:51 PM

    Something need to be done urgently.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Dr. Choudhury,

      Indeed, there should be conservation programmes to be implemented to revive Hangul population. however, the conservation breeding programme is almost non-functional and the rampant poaching that is happening in the area is alarming. The ongoing conflict situation is also making the situation worse.

      Delete

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