Srinagar: In a run-up-to Hangul census 2017, the department of wildlife protection organised a daylong orientation programme last Thursday, March 9, at the Nature Interpretation Centre (NIC), Dachigam National Park, reckoned to be the first ever endeavour to count or estimate the deer specie within the park on scientific lines using global positioning system (GPS) on some 35 designated transact lines.
Over 300 volunteers have registered for the Hangul enumeration which will cover not only the premises of Dachigam incidentally the last stronghold of the beleaguered deer specie but certain other areas outside the park as well viz Wangat (Kangan) in the north and Khrew and Khonmoh in the south.
The volunteers were shown documentaries on wildlife particularly Hangul and given hands-on-training on gadgets like GPS and rangefinders. Experts from the department also spoke on the occasion explaining at length the dos and donts concerning the census exercise.
According to Tahir Ahmad Shawl, Wildlife Warden (Central), previous censuses could not ascertain the number of the deer for varied reasons. The entire exercise this time around will be conducted on scientific lines using GPS on already designated transact lines, Shawl said. Well be repeating the exercise for three days to double-check the facts. To ensure transparency in the census, weve invited volunteers from various departments of Kashmir University, Centre of Research and Development (CORD), agricultural university, media and other NGOs.
Dachigam has around 150 Hanguls as per the 2015 census though the number was widely disputed in the media for lack of credibility.
The protocol for Hangul enumeration has been devised by wildlife scientists which is in tune with the guidelines given by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, and is being followed uniformly across the country.
The procedure entails collecting field data at the beat level by habitat analysis using satellite data. The data will be audited by wildlife scientists and experts.
The methodology is simple and robust and the estimation will be based on studies of systematically distributed sampling units or beats throughout the Hangul terrain. While the volunteers will seek signs of the deer on the first three days by way of direct sighting and indirect evidence like pellets, shed antelers and tracking hoof marks, the focus will be on herbivore survey and vegetation for the remaining three days to give a holistic picture of the entire landscape, Tahir Shawl said.
Volunteers will walk along the transect line and cover 3 km spread over three days and record signs, he said.
Hangul is a closely related cousin of the European Red Deer and listed as critically endangered deer specie by the International Union For Conservation Of Nature (IUCN).
Hangul was once available in large number in the Kashmir valley across present day India and Pakistan. The initial surveys done in before 1950s revealed the Hangul population to be more than 5000. But a shocking
survey published by E. P. Gee in 1957 revealed that only 400 specimens of the Kashmir Stag is surviving in the region. The species immediately got attention and considered as one of the rarest mammal in Indian subcontinent.
Despite various efforts, the Hangul population still stands at alarming 220 according to 2011 survey. Officials and wildlife experts put their number at a mere 150 currently.
The current political imbalance of Kashmir, overgrazing of cattle into Hanguls territory, loss of habitat are attributed for the endangered status of the animal.
Wildlife activists and conservationists believe that if the corrective measures are not taken immediately, the Hangul, which is also the State animal, would be completely wiped out of the Park.
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