Captive Breeding Programme To Save Kashmir's Red Deer

11 March 2009
The Hindu

Jammu: Stepping in to save Kashmir's endangered red deer - hanguls - from extinction, the Jammu and Kashmir government has launched a Rs 8.80 crore project under which carnivore proof enclosures will be set up for captive breeding of fawns. With most of the stags falling prey to leopards, wild dogs, jackals and wolfs leading to a decline in population of hanguls, the wildlife department has decided to set up carnivore proof insito enclosures (CPIES) for them. 'We have launched a major initiative to save hanguls in Kashmir Valley from extinction under the Rs 8.80 crore Save Hangul project. In this direction, hanguls would soon have CPIES homes where they would be bred in captivity,' Jammu and Kashmir Chief Wildlife Warden A K Shrivastava told PTI here. Fine tuned by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the project involves captive breeding, insito enclosure upbringing, census, radio active collars, anti-poaching, anti-grazing measures and habitat improvement to save and conserve hanguls and also increase their population. Jammu and Kashmir's state animal, hangul, is an endangered species of the red deer family. The department has started construction of carnivore proof enclosures on a war footing at Shikargah Wildlife Sanctuary (Tral), Dachigam National Park (Srinagar). The breeding centres would also be gradually set up at Gurez, Bandipora, Ajas, Mangat and Khanmoh. 'The breeding would be conducted in CPIES and later the fawns would be brought up in this secured environment till they grow to a certain age,' Shrivastava said, adding the insito enclosures would come up in an area of 10 hectares. Out of the total amount of Rs 8.80 crore, Rs 1.2 crore financial assistance for the project has been released by the Centre, he said. For conducting a full fledged survey of the hanguls, the department is planning to purchase cameras, binoculars, radio collars and other equipments, he said adding 'we will also set up camera traps in different habitat to study the reasons for the fall of the population of hanguls. As per the last census of hanguls conducted in April 2006, there were 160 stags in the valley. In 1988, a year before the onset of militancy in the state, a census conducted by the Wildlife department with Wildlife Institute of Dehradun and Centre for Wildlife and Ornithology, Aligarh had put the population of hangul in the area as high as 918 with 48:52 as male-female ratio. Thereafter, there was an alarming decline of hangul especially during the period of militancy in valley- from 918 it touched its lowest population 107-140 in 1996 but slightly increased to 160 in 2006. 'We have to find the distribution area of this critically endangered species. They have also been found in areas of Khrew and Kunmoh. Hangul has also been sighted in the high altitude Kishtwar National Park,' the chief wildlife warden said.