Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir is home to impressive flora and fauna, thanks to diverse habitats, wide altitudinal gradient, and climatic variations.
According to the official data, J&K and Ladakh possess 112 species of mammals. They include 34 globally threatened with one critically Endangered, 6 Endangered, 12 Vulnerable, and 8 Near threatened species. Each one of these species has an important role to play in sustaining life in the ecosystem of the region. Therefore, it is necessary to take care of them and coexist peacefully.
To achieve this purpose, World Animal Day is observed every year on October 4 to raise awareness about the plight of animals and work towards their protection. First held in 1925, the day aims to draw attention to the issues of animal welfare across the globe. The goal is to improve the lives of all animals- wild or domestic- through recognition and awareness.
On the occasion of World Animal Day 2021, here’s a look at four endangered and vulnerable animals in Jammu & Kashmir you should see before they vanish.
Kashmir Red Deer or Hangul: (Cervus hangul hanglu), is listed as critically endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list. At the beginning of the 20th century, it existed in thousands and lived in groups of 2 to 18 in dense riverine forests in high valleys and mountains of Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. Over the years, their habitat was destroyed and they are now one of the critically endangered species.
At present, the only viable population of Hangul is confined to Dachigam National Park with some relic Hangul populations also occurring in the adjoining areas of Brein/Nishat and Shikargah Conservation Reserves and Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary. Poaching, habitat fragmentation and habitat degradation and livestock pressure, disease transmission from livestock, and other anthropogenic pressures are the cause for its continued decline.
Kashmir Musk Deer: It is a primitive deer-like ruminant belonging to the family Moschidae. The deer inhabits the forested and alpine scrub habitats of mountains in Asia. It is endemic to the Kashmir region of Jammu and Kashmir and is endangered.
It occurs along the northern bank of Jhelum River, and little is known of the species’ current status and distribution in Kashmir mountains. Poaching, habitat degradation, livestock grazing, and anthropogenic pressure are the major threats to its survival.
Kashmir Markhor: Markhor (Capra falconeri): The largest wild goat in the world – was in the near-threatened category on the IUCN red list when the most recent assessment for the species was made in 2014. The Markhor is officially protected under the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Act.
But it remains highly threatened due to ill-planned development projects, overgrazing by domestic animals, laying of electricity transmission lines, poaching, and fragmentation of its habitat due to fencing along the border between India and Pakistan. This fragmentation has led to inbreeding on both sides.
Snow Leopard: Usually endemic to Ladakh, the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) has been listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN’s) red list given its large-scale poaching. The animal has also been listed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
It is a keystone species and an indicator of a healthy high mountain ecosystem. Snow Leopard is the apex predator of the Himalayan ecosystem. It is found in 12 countries including India, and its global population ranges from 3921 to 6290 individuals. Jammu and Kashmir, with a potential habitat of 77,800 km2, is the largest continuous habitat for the Snow Leopard in India, occupying 60% of its national distribution range.