Srinagar, Kashmir - In mid-July, a momentous development unfolded in the heart of Kashmir, bringing joy to nature enthusiasts worldwide. The Department of Wildlife Protection, Jammu & Kashmir, has embarked on a significant project aimed at the ex-situ breeding and conservation of the Hangul, also known as the Kashmiri Stag, a species teetering on the brink of extinction. After a hiatus of over a decade, the world’s sole breeding centre for Hangul has been revived, marking a milestone in conservation efforts.
This remarkable centre has been established in the picturesque Tral area of Pulwama, renowned for its natural beauty within the region. Notably, the Shikargah tourist destination, nestled here, has not only gained local acclaim but has now earned international recognition as the Kashmiri Hangul Breeding Center reopens its doors after a hiatus of nearly twelve years. This revival has garnered widespread public support, with the project fulfilling a long-standing demand from the community.
Local resident Ab Salam reminisced about the historical significance of Shikargah, visited by ancient rulers like Maharaja Hari Singh, who once ordered the development of this naturally splendid area. Furthermore, Pinglish Tral highlighted the potential of the Hangul’s presence at the breeding centre in attracting visitors to the region.
Business Economics has learned that the Central Zoo Authority of India sanctioned the Hangul Breeding Center in 2008, initiating years of dedicated work and numerous visits by national and international teams. Recent efforts led to the identification of approximately 14 to 15 Kashmiri deer in the Shikargah forests. Subsequently, a plan was devised to naturally relocate them to the breeding centre, resulting in the successful capture of two female Kashmiri Hangul individuals in May of this year. These individuals are currently under discreet camera surveillance, and efforts are underway to introduce a male Hangul to create a conducive breeding environment.
It is important to note that the Hangul is a critically endangered species found exclusively in Kashmir, making its conservation a matter of global importance. Over the past seven to eight decades, Hangul numbers have witnessed a sharp decline. The Wildlife Warden, Intisar Suhail, emphasized the department’s relentless commitment to the species’ preservation and outlined the two primary conservation strategies: in-situ and ex-situ conservation.
“In in-situ conservation, efforts are focused on safeguarding and preserving the animal’s natural habitat, such as the Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary in Srinagar and its surrounding areas, while simultaneously combating illegal poaching,” Suhail explained. Conversely, the government has initiated an ex-situ program, breeding the Hangul within a controlled environment—the newly operational Hangul Breeding Center, a vital component of this initiative. The centre’s establishment received substantial support from the Central Zoo Authority of India, with funds from the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) also contributing to this significant conservation milestone.
Although the Hangul population dwindled from approximately 3,000 to 900 in 1989 and further decreased to around 200 in recent years, there has been a promising resurgence in their numbers in recent times. The conservation of Hangul holds immense significance, as the species enjoys Schedule-I protection under the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1978 (amended up to 2002) and the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. Additionally, it is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.