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Locals, activists want defunct breeding centre for 'vulnerable' Kashmiri stag revived

By Basharat Rashid*
Wildlife authorities in Kashmir have recently announced that a group of hangul were captured by their lens in Shikargah wildlife sanctuary of Tral in Southern part of Kashmir, following which locals were seen very happy as there is apparent dearth of overall hangul population in Kashmir.
Sources said that "acting on the locals reports about the presence of hangul (Kashmiri stag) in Shikargah area, wildlife authorities had installed cameras there, which managed to capture around 10 hanguls."
"Wildlife team had installed two movement sensor based cameras in two locations on the top of Shikargah, which clicked the pictures and showed around ten hanguls there. This is for the first time that hanguls were captured in lens, which literally showed their presence here," they said.
However, the hangul population as per the locals is vulnerable, "which is the matter of grave concern and should be taken into consideration at the earliest."
In 2011-12, a hangul breeding centre was established in Shikargah wildlife sanctuary for the conservation of hangul and a lot of forest land was taken for its construction.
The centre "was constructed with crores of rupees and power fencing was raised all around the centre for the proper protection of deer population (hangul)."
After the completion of work on breeding centre, a deer was placed in it, following which a rush of people was witnessed there, but the said deer became 'prey to leopard' only after few days. Since then, centre continued to remain defunct.
The locals of the area have been witnessing the movement of hangul population in the area but wildlife authorities had no clue until they installed their cameras on the top, which finally confirmed the presence of hangul population in Shikargah.
The locals have however apprehension that they hangul population may be affected as they roam unnecessarily in residential areas and barge into the local orchards where they eat chemical (pesticides/insecticides) sprayed grass and leaves.
Wildlife authorities only made assurances for many years that they will capture the hangul to breed them securely in the centre but they failed
"Our apple orchards and vegetable fields were badly damaged by deer and they eat chemical sprayed leaves and grass there which may be harmful for them," a local Sartaj Ahmad said, adding that breeding centre could save the population.
Another local said that wildlife authorities only made assurances for many years that they will capture the hangul to breed them securely in the centre but they failed to manage it.
The area (health resort) is very beautiful and functioning of centre may boost tourism there and may help the deer population to survive.
Farooq Trali, a social activist, said that Shikargah is a well known place since Mahraja Hari Singh's rule, and non-functioning of hangul breeding centre there for years is unacceptable.
He said that government should enquire the reason behind the non-functioning of this crores worth project and should ensure its functioning again.
Chief Wildlife Warden, Kashmir, SK Gupta, during a recent tour to Shikargah wildlife sanctuary,  said that hangul is a sensitive species and their direct capturing may be intolerable for them.
He further said that they are trying to habituate them naturally and added that they will close the gates once they found hanguls inside the sanctuary.
"We will habituate them naturally without letting them know that they are occupied as breeding to the stressed animals is not possible," he said.
Pertinently, Shikargah has historical background as "many Bollywood celebrities and other dignitaries" had visited there decades back to enjoy its beautification.
The place is still a picnic spot for locals who visit there on daily basis to refresh themselves.
---
*Journalist based in Kashmir

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