SRINAGAR, July 6: Battling for survival for the past three decades, an endangered species of red deer –Hangul – found only in Kashmir, this summer has been scared away from breeding by an unexpected rush of tourists.
The increasing number of tourists pouring into the trouble torn Kashmir for the past two years has brought good fortune for many locals, but at the same time it has worried the wild life experts of the valley.
The wild life department was forced to close Dachigam National Park, the only abode of Hangul in the world located some 22 km east of the city centre in Srinagar, after an ‘excessive flow of visitors to the park disturbed the specie from breeding’.
The authorities, besides cancelling the entry passes of hundreds of tourists, have appealed people, through newspaper advertisements, to cooperate with the department’s decision. The park, closed down during militancy, was thrown open for eco tourism earlier this year after over a decade.
“Hangul has been disturbed to a large extent due to excessive inflow of visitors. As this is the fawning season of this endangered species and this disturbance may cause displacement of this animal,” said Wild Life warden, central division, Imtiyaz Ahmad.
“As such the entry into the National park has been cancelled till further orders,” he said.
From a population of over 900 before 1989, when militancy broke out in Kashmir, the number of Hangul ( also called Kashmir stag) has reduced to around 230-260, according to a recent census.
The deer was killed for its meat by both militants and security forces while poachers hunted the animal for fur and antlers which fetch high black market prices.
(The author is a correspondent, The Hindustan Times)