Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Saving the Kashmiri Stag also known as "Hangul"

Hangul population has dwindled from 3,000-5,000 in early 1900's, to 150 today

Govt starts census on endangered Hangul

Srinagar: The Government has started a fresh census on the Kashmir stag or Hangul which is on the verge of extinction mainly due to human interference in its habitat.

The census is considered to be imperative to identify threats to the Hangul and formulate a strategy to save the animal. Scientifically known as Cervus elaphus hanglu, Hangul is one of the world’s most endangered species. It is the only surviving race of the Red Deer family of Europe in the sub-continent. The animal is battling for its survival in its last bastion, the Dachigam National Park and its adjoining forest ranges.

Popular for its magnificent antlers with 11 to 16 points, Hangul’s population has diminished from 3000-5000 in from early 1900s to below 150.

The Department of Wildlife in technical collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of India and the Wildlife SOS has started the census in Zabarwan and adjoining forest ranges. The census is being assisted by experts and volunteers from Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences, Veterinary College of Science Shuhama, Zoology department of Kashmir University, Forestry College Wadoora and an NGO named Peace.

Officials said the Hangul population estimation is being conducted in Dachigam National Park, Dara, Nishat, Brain, Cheshmashahi, Khonmoh, Khrew, Wangath wildlife areas besides adjoining forest areas like Akhal, Najwan, Surfrao, Kulan, Mammar, Ganiwan falling in Sindh Forest Division.

The Wildlife Warden, Central, Rashid Naqash, said the population size of a specie is like a currency by which the success of many management programmes ultimately is judged. “Therefore, it is important to have multiple counts in same area at different times or different habitats of an area and repeat these counts in different years to get a trend of population, sex ratio etc. It is the trend of population which would enable the management to comprehend the pulse of a population and thereby making right decision at appropriate time,” Naqash said.

At present the viable population of Hangul occurs only in Dachigam National Park and a few isolated populations in the adjoining areas. “We will trace indirect and direct evidence like antlers and wool for presence of Hanguls in the forests. This will help us to develop a consensus over their population,” he added.

Last year the Wildlife department prepared an action plan for Hangul conservation. The plan envisages captive breeding, in-situ enclosure upbringing, census, radioactive collars, anti-poaching, anti-grazing measures and habitat improvement.

The Kashmir’s shikar map prepared by Maharaja Hari Singh depicts distribution of Hangul in a radius of 40 kilometres spreading from Keran in Kishenganga catchments over to Dorus in Lolab Valley, Erin catchments in Bandipora to Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh through Baltal to Aru, Tral, and Kishtwar. Gradually, the population declined to about 1,000-2,000 in 1947 and subsequently as low as 250 in ‘70s.

The researchers said Hangul is confronted by disease transmissions from various animals leading to vulnerability of the species due to health problems.
In view of threats to the Hangul, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of threatened species categorized as it as endangered in 1996.

Taking Hangul’s current population structure, distribution, area of occupancy, number of maturing individuals, fluctuations in the number of mature individuals, the scientists recommend its inclusion into IUCN’s critical endangered category.
Researchers point out that the upper Dachigam area which is the ideal and traditional summer habitat of the animal has been abandoned by it due to human interference. They blamed the disturbances to livestock and the grazers who camp in the upper Dachigam during summer besides frequent uncontrolled fires and deforestation in the recent years for decrease in Hangul population.

(Greater Kashmir)

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