JAMMU – The Tral Wildlife Sanctuary will function as a protected wildlife corridor for the endangered Kashmir Stag, also called Hungul, with the Jammu and Kashmir administration issuing a notification in this regard, officials said on Saturday.
The sanctuary, spread over an area of 154.15 square kilometers, falls in the Pulwama district of south Kashmir and has come into being by merging Changed, Panyar-Shikargah and Khiram wildlife conservation reserves and few other forest compartments of Awantipora forest division, an official spokesman said.
“The sanctuary will function as a protected wildlife corridor for the Hangul population present down south in Shikargah-Panyer and Khiram conservation reserves with the main population in Dachigam National park in the north.
“The sanctuary will also help in creating a buffer around the Dachigam National Park and Overa-Aru wildlife sanctuary leading to a secure, suitable and viable habitat for the last remnant Hangul population,” the spokesman said.
The area also promises immense tourism potential which will play a significant role in boosting the rural economy by way of eco-tourism, the spokesman added.
The Kashmir stag is a subspecies of the elk native. Known for its magnificent antlers, which can have 11 to 16 points, Hangul is the only surviving Asiatic sub-species of the European red deer family, found only in Kashmir.
The area has the distinction of harbouring the Hangul population that exists outside Dachigam National Park in Srinagar. Besides, 15 species of mammals, including some rare ones are also found within the limits of the sanctuary.
It is also home to more than 200 species of birds, the spokesman said.
By declaring Tral Wildlife Sanctuary, the sustainable conservation of the flora and fauna of the state will be ensured, he said.
From a population of around 3,000-5,000 in the first half of the last century, their numbers has been constantly declining over the decades.
The 2019 census of the endangered Hangul has revealed alarming decrease in the animal’s population, with the lowest ever male-female and fawn-female ratios.
The census was conducted by the State Department of Wildlife Protection. The census, however, shows marginal increase in Hangul population from 214 in 2017 to 237 this year.
As per the data, there were 15.5 males per 100 females and 7.5 fawns per 100 females. The male-female and fawn-female ratios are quite alarming as these ratios are lower than ever.