Hangul census concludes in Kashmir; wildlife department uses drones to count numbers

March 27, 2023

SRINAGAR:  Wildlife department pressed state-of-the-art drones into service to conduct the Hangul census in Kashmir.

The week-long census was held from March 15 to 20. Experts say that there is a significant increase in the number of animals this year. Nearly 300 people including students, experts, wildlife officials, and NGOs participated in the census.

“Students from zoology, botany, and veterinary sciences background were given the task to conduct the census. People have to physically sight the hangul for enumeration. Nowadays the department is using drones for spotting the animals,” said Aaqib Hussain, a wildlife biologist, who was part of the census.

Hangul, cervus elaphus hanglu, was the state animal of erstwhile united Jammu and Kashmir. Found in the forest ridges of the Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary, the majestic animal is known for its reddish coat and two antlers.

As per the 2021 census, the Hangul population in Kashmir is 263. Official figures reveal that the Hangul population was 237 in 2019, an uptick from the 2017 census.  In 2017, the Hangul population was 214. Earlier, Hangul’s count was 175, 218, and 186 in 2009, 2011, and 2015 respectively.

Hangul is a very shy and elusive animal that is very hard to spot in the woods. Scientists in 2017 achieved a rare feat when they fitted a satellite collar on the critically endangered `Hangul’ to understand their biology, behavior, and ecology in a bid to support the management interventions for the survival of the animal species.

Official figures reveal that 15,806.75 square kilometers of area in Jammu and Kashmir is under the Protected Area Network, which comprises five National Parks, 14 Wildlife Sanctuaries, and 37 Conservation Reserves.

“The census was conducted in the Hangul landscape area. It included Dachigam National Park, Khrew-Khanmoh Conservation Reserve, and Tral,” said Aaqib.

This survey will indicate the distribution and trend of the population of Hangul in the relic habitats apart from ascertaining the current population in Dachigam National Park. Officials said it will be useful in planning for the execution of the Hangul Conservation Plan

“We have been witnessing an increase in the population for the last few years. This year, however, the population has increased significantly. Official numbers will be released by the department at an appropriate time,” said Aaqib.

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