Wildlife & Biodiversity

Challenges galore for Monarch of the Glen: Hangul fawn-hind ratio touches lowest-ever level

The latest census also reveals that the stag-hind ratio is very poor for the embattled cervid species

 
By Athar Parvaiz
Last Updated: Friday 19 July 2019
Photo: Wildlife SOS
Photo: Wildlife SOS Photo: Wildlife SOS

There has been an ‘alarming’ decline in the fawn-hind and stag-hind ratio of the hangul (Cervus hanglu) population in Kashmir, the latest census in the Valley has revealed.

There were 7.5 fawns per 100 females and 15.5 males per 100 females, the census data shows. This ratio is way lower than 19.1 and 15.8 found during the 2017 population monitoring exercise.

Wildlife experts say the reasons for this decline need to be looked into promptly if the conservation of the hangul has to be made possible.

The Kashmir stag is the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir and is only surviving species of red deer in India. It was once widely distributed in the mountains of Kashmir and parts of the Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh, in an arc 65 kilometres (km) in width to the north and east of the Jhelum and lower Chenab rivers, with a population of about 5,000 individuals.

Today though, the viable population of hangul is limited to the Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary near Srinagar, which is spread over 141 square kilometers. Very small fragmented groups have been seen in its adjoining protected areas which include Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary in south Kashmir.

The latest hangul population monitoring exercise was conducted between March 22 and March 30, 2019.

It was conducted by the Department of Wildlife Protection, Jammu & Kashmir (DWLP) in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

Such exercises have been conducted in the Dachigam landscape since 2004 through scientific methods that involve the participation of researchers, field staff, university students and non-profits.

Eight such annual exercises have been carried out during March of 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2017 and 2019.

The lack of stability in the hangul population is a nagging concern for conservationists, including the wildlife department of Kashmir for years, as poor female-fawn and male-female ratios, increasing rate of fragmentation of forested habitats and poaching have played havoc with the hangul population in Kashmir.

Year

Hangul population estimates

Male-female ratio
(Males: per 100 females)

Fawn-female ratio
(fawn: per 100 females)

2004

197

19

23

2006

153

21

09

2009

175

26.52

27.82

2011

218

29.52

25.80

2015

183

22.33

14.33

2017

214

15.8

19.1

2019

237

15.3

9.1

 

What conservationists say

According to wildlife experts, understanding the overall declining trend in the hangul population and the reason for the imbalance in population structure, which includes alarming male-female and fawn-female ratios, is crucial for management of deer populations.

“If we analyse the hangul population in recent years (especially after year 2000), there has not been any significant improvement in numbers neither a drastic decline. But what needs to be studied carefully and scientifically, is the massive decline in fawn-female ratio and male-female ratio,” said Intisar Suhail, a senior wildlife official in Kashmir.

“I am sure the department of wildlife will look into this issue now that we have got new trends in population structure,” he added.   

In the population report, the wildlife department has emphasized the need of starting a special project for prioritizing the conservation of hangul.

“As [hangul is] its state animal, the government of Jammu & Kashmir, must reiterate its commitment to protect and indeed revive the hangul and articulate its vision for the conservation of the hangul, and for securing and conserving its habitat. The state may consider initiating a Project Hangul,” the report reads.

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