The Last Hanguls On Earth
Harwan is a resplendent heaven, a natural habitat, fordiverse Himalayan flora and fauna. And here, amidst Zabarwan range of the Himalayas, a rich sprawling population of the beloved Asian red deer (Hangul) finds respite in Dachigam National Park. Dachigam is a paradise to wildlife enthusiasts and explorers. Winding pathways decorated with wild creepers and berry outgrowths lead to the niche of Hangul. Being a shy animal, fewer sightings have been confirmed by visitors. Hence, spotting one on a stroll is a big deal.
Hangul is a herbivore with Dachigam offering more than enough reserves for its nourishment. The park is mostly covered with Himalayan moist type temperate forests. Thus, food is available in plenty. Breeding season starts in mid-September and continues for 3-4 weeks. After a gestation period of nearly 9 months, the fawn is delivered in May or June. It migrates to upper divisions during summers and to the lower section of the park during winters when food is scarce. Average height of a male Hangul is about 5 feet while the females are relatively shorter. Antlers on males grow with age and are shed annually. The fallen antlers then form a rich source of calcium for porcupines, displaying the amazing interdependence of this forest ecosystem. Census conducted in 2011 exhibitedgood signs for this red deer species. The fawn-female ratio had increased and the number of individuals was slightly more than 180.
Issues of concern
Hangul is only found in this national park. Dachigam is its habitat, its home, and destruction at the hands of non-locals, sheep farms inside thepark and presence of military base has led to an alarming decrease in its population. Interference of any kind develops problems during gestation and birth which leads to untimely abortions, thus reducing population to a great extent. There have also been incidents of forest fires. Dousing fires could even take 2-3 days. However, the park officials maintain that no serious disaster has ever befallen the wildlife, especially Hangul. Nonetheless, trauma during these natural disasters tends to affect the wild.
Poaching, although, has been drastically reduced but overgrazing is still a problem in upper reaches of the park. Bakarwaals (non-local shepherds) indulgein illicit grazing of their herds destroying part of the park only to move on to the next. Authorities lag behind in controlling the issue but on the whole, Dachigam has been demarcated for safety. Another important factor is that the locals are not aware of the benefits a forest provides. Hardly anyonecomprehends the fact that just one tree produces oxygen worth $30,000 per year.
Awareness and action
Hangul is a critically endangered species and efforts should be made to make it last. People have been proposing theories about ex-situ conservation units and captive breeding programs. But this must be dealt with carefully. What if the Hangul bred inside a special conservation chamber turns domestic and loses its identity in the wild? Such issues are to be tackled appropriately but as soon as possible.Many students from across the country currently pursue their research on Hangul but there is still a lot to unveil in Dachigam, both in flora and fauna.
Sustainable tourism should be encouraged inside the park too. Pollution of any and every kind should not be tolerated. People should believe in a positive change. That is what has kept our Earth alive. Awareness and action concerning wildlife, in particular, and environment, in general, is mandatory. This education has to be provided at the elementary level. Only then can our future generations understand and protect this fragile ecosystem.