Dachigam National Park officials make preparations to protect endangered species of deer

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Srinagar, Feb 13 (ANI): Dachigam National Park in Kashmir is abuzz with activities these days as wildlife officials are putting in their best to protect endangered Hangul species (known as Kashmir stag Red Deer variety) from heavy snow.

Shortage of fodder grass due to heavy snowfall in the higher reaches of the park have forced Hangul to the plains where wildlife officials had made preparations for serving the Hangul and keeping it fit.

The special menu for the Hangul consists mainly of willow sticks and salts their favourite.

"In winter season, the whole surface is covered with snow. These deer face problems in getting food. So we collect and store the dry willow sticks in the month of winter, which is used to feed them. Apart from that, we also provide large quantity of minerals in a feeding place," said Rashid Naqash, a wildlife warden.

The Hangul is listed as an endangered species in the Red Data Book of the international Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Apart from heavy snow, predators like leopards are the biggest threat to the deer's survival.

According to experts, the state had around 5,000 Hanguls in the beginning of the 20th century. Their number was reduced to about 150 by 1970 due to habitat destruction, overgrazing by domestic livestock and poaching.

Efforts by the state authorities and WWF raised their number to 900 Hanguls at Dachigam in 1989.

However, according to a census carried out in 2006 by WII and state wildlife department, Hangul's population had again gone down to mere 115 in the past few years.

Environmentalists cite deforestation, environmental changes, as reasons for decrease in their numbers. Poaching and killing by predators is also responsible for their dwindling numbers. By Parvez Butt (ANI)

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