Hangul Breeding Center at Shikargah a non-starter, courtesy official apathy

Hangul Breeding Center at Shikargah a non-starter, courtesy official apathy

“Within days of a four-month-old Hangul being brought to the Centre for captive breeding, the animal fell prey to a leopard,” officials associated with the “dumped” project said.

A central-sponsored project on conservation of Hangul, an endangered species of red deer found only in Kashmir, has failed to take-off as per plan.

The Hangul Conservation Breeding Centre at Shikargah area of south Kashmir’s Tral hasn’t been made fully functional even four years after its establishment, hitting the conservation of the only surviving species of the Red Deer family, official sources told Greater Kashmir.

The Centre, they said, was set-up with the basic aim of augmenting the “dwindling numbers” of the animal through a captive breeding program and was the first initiative of its kind in the sub-continent where an attempt was made to increase population of the animal.

“Within days of a four-month-old Hangul being brought to the Centre for captive breeding, the animal fell prey to a leopard,” officials associated with the “dumped” project said.

Though there is a high-rise fencing all around the Centre, the leopard used a pine tree to enter inside, they said. Environment lawyer, Nadeem Qadri blamed wildlife officials for the failure of the Hangul conservation project.

“Technically it is a very big scandal. They Center was deliberately turned dysfunctional. Hangul is our pride, but a lobby of Indian Forest Service officials is hell-bent to derail the efforts for its conservation. We have filed a complaint against a former Wildlife Official with the Crime Branch and Vigilance Organization for swindling the funds meant for Shikargah Hangul Breeding Center,” he said.

Qadri also raised questions over the infrastructure at the Centre. “Wildlife officials shifted a Hangul to the breeding Center without any requisite infrastructure there. The four month old Hangul fell prey to a Leopard due to the negligence of officials,” he alleged.

He said a dispensary was also supposed to be set up at the Hangul Conservation Breeding Center and services of a veterinarian were also required to monitor the program, but nothing was done.

Taking to Greater Kashmir, Wildlife Warden Shopian Ifshan Dewan admitted that Hangul Breeding Center has failed to take-off. “But, we are very serious about starting it again with the expert advice from Central Zoo Authority of India (CZI). We don’t want to take any chance this time.”

She said they will shift the animals only after establishing the required facilities at the Center.

Poached for its meat, antlers and skin, the Hangul numbers have been on the decline for the past many decades.  From around 3,000, the figure dropped to 900 in 1989 which dwindled to near about 200 a few years back.

Conservation of Hangul assumes great significance as the species is placed under Schedule-I in the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978 (amended up to 2002) and the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. It is also listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.