Hangul struggles to survive, count dips to 138

The only Asiatic survivor of the red deer, hangul is struggling against extinction as the latest census puts the lower limit of its total population at an alarming 138.
The latest census carried out by the state’s Department of Wildlife Protection in technical collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India has found grim statistics with no significant improvement in the hangul population.
“The population estimate of hangul is 182, with upper and lower limits of 214 and 138, respectively,” the latest census report said.
The latest limit is the lowest in the recent decades, beating the number of 170 recorded in 2003 and slightly higher than 120 in 1992. The census, conducted and prepared in 2017, has also noted “concerns due to poor female-fawn ratio,” which stands at 19 fawns per 100 females.
Hangul, whose habitat is now limited to Dachigam on the eastern edge of Srinagar district, was earlier believed to be sub-species of Cervus elaphus but more recent research has indicated it to be a separate species, Cervus hanglu. In 2016, hangul was elevated to the species level for the purpose of IUCN Red List assessment.
Regional Wildlife Warden Rashid Naqash said the latest census indicated that the population was static. “It has not either increased or decreased, but the number remains alarming. Hangul remains critically endangered,” he told Kashmir Post.
The official said the department was mulling measures to increase the hangul population. These include its genetic breeding and expanding its habitat zone outside the 141-sq km Dachigam National Park.
The hangul population was believed to be between 3,000-5,000 in early 1900s and had plunged to about 1,000-2,000 in 1947. Its population was reduced to 197 in 2004, 153 in 2006, 127 in 2008, 175 in 2009, 218 in 2011 and 186 in 2015.
The UK-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global authority on the conservation status of species, has listed the hangul as critically endangered. It estimated that its population was undergoing a “continuing decline at the rate of or exceeding 25 per cent within one generation.”
The degradation of the hangul’s summer habitat in the upper Dachigam area, biotic interference in its winter habitat, low breeding and problem of young survival, poaching and possible predation by leopards are listed as the reasons for the decline in its numbers over the decades.