Project Hangul - UPSC Notes - Environment - Thought Chakra

Project Hangul – UPSC Notes – Environment

Project Hangul is a conservation and protection project for the critically endangered Kashmir Stag or Hangul. In the 1970s, the Jammu and Kashmir government initiated a project to protect the Hangul and its habitat with the assistance of the IUCN and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Hangul, also known as Kashmir Stag, was the focal point of this ambitious endeavor aimed at conservation and protection. By 1980, the population of this species had increased to 340. According to the IUCN Red List, Hangul is classified as a Critically Endangered species. This article delves into Project Hangul, providing insights crucial for UPSC exam preparation.

Hangu or Kashmir Stag


  • Hangul, also known as Kashmir red stag, is an elk subspecies native to India.
  • Previously, the Kashmir stag was classified as a subspecies of European red deer.
  • After a mitochondrial DNA genetic study revealed that Hangul belongs to the Asian family of elk, it was later classified as a subspecies of elk.
  • The Hangul was once widely distributed in the mountains of Kashmir Himalaya, the Chenab Valley in Jammu, and parts of the Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh; however, the only viable population is in the Greater Dachigam landscape north-east of Srinagar, centred on Dachigam National Park and adjoining protected areas.
  • Hangul live in groups in the riverine forests, high valleys, and mountains of Kashmir and the northern Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh.
  • The Hangul language is found in Bren-Nishat conservation reserves such as Cheshmashahi Forest Reserve, Khrew Khanagund, Shikargh, and Overa Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Outside of Dachigam National Park, range-wide surveys from 2000 to 2009 indicate that the Hangul is restricted to 351 km2 of its possible range of approximately 885 km2.
  • The Hangul is the only surviving species of Asiatic red deer.
  • The male Hangul has antlers with 11 to 16 points. The Hangul society is matriarchal.
  • The Hangul is the state animal of the former state and current UT of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • It has been considered one of the most endangered mammal species in the Indian subcontinent since the 1950s.
  • The Hangul has been designated as a protected species under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972.

Dachigam National Park

Dachigam (ten villages) National Park is located approximately 22 kilometres from Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.

  • Fauna: The hangul, or Kashmir stag, is the most famous animal species in Dachigam.
  • Flora: The park boasts an extremely diverse floral wealth, which is an integral part of its ecosystem. It includes walnut, apricot, apple, pear, and wild cherry trees, along with plum, chestnut, willow, oak, and birch trees.

What is Project Hangul?

  • The Kashmir stag, also known as hangul, is a subspecies of Central Asian Red Deer native to northern India. It holds the status of state animal in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • In Kashmir, it primarily inhabits Dachigam National Park, reaching elevations of 3,035 meters. Initially, their population was around 5000 animals at the start of the 20th century.
  • Unfortunately, they faced threats such as habitat destruction, overgrazing by domestic livestock, and poaching, leading to a drastic decline in numbers, plummeting to as low as 150 by 1970.
  • In response, the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in collaboration with IUCN and WWF, initiated a project for the protection of these animals, known as Project Hangul.
  • This project yielded significant results, with the population rebounding to over 340 by 1980.

Population of Hangul

The Hangul population has steadily declined over the decades, from a peak of 5,000 in the early 1900s. It holds significant importance to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, akin to the national significance of the tiger to India.

It stands as the sole surviving Asiatic subspecies of the European red deer. However, the declining population of this state animal remains a major concern.

  • In 2007, the population of Kashmir red stags was estimated to be 197. By 2009, it increased to 234, but started declining again, reaching 218 in 2011 and 186 in 2015. The most recent census in 2017 recorded a further shrinkage to 182.
  • The Kashmir state wildlife department set up a captive breeding centre in Shikargarh in 2013. However, a leopard preyed on a fawn shortly after its relocation as part of the breeding program, rendering the centre inoperable since then.
  • Another concern is the declining sex ratio, which previously ranged from 21 to 51 males per 100 females but has now fallen to about 12 males for every 100 females.
  • This imbalance has led to a drop in the birth rate, further raising worries about the species’ future growth. Restoring the sex ratio to normal within a specific timeframe is deemed crucial.
  • According to the IUCN Red Data Book, which identifies species at risk of extinction, the Hangul is listed as one of the three severely endangered species in Jammu and Kashmir. The Markhor and the Tibetan antelope are the other two species facing similar threats.

Habitat of the Hangul

The Hangul thrives in various habitats including deciduous woodland, upland moors, open mountainous areas, natural grasslands, pastures, and meadows.

  • During winter, it favors mixed oak forests, while in summer, it gravitates towards mulberry Morus and riverine habitats, where food is abundant.
  • Its diet primarily consists of shrub and tree shoots in woodland, but it also consumes grasses and shrubs in other environments.
  • Mountainous areas are its preferred habitat, where it spends summers in alpine meadows and winters in valleys.
  • It shows a preference for wooded hillsides in summer and open grasslands in winter, particularly on level terrain.
  • Surveys indicate that the Sindh Forest Division’s Akhal and Kangan blocks are crucial for Hangul during summer, especially when the upper subalpine reaches of Dachigam National Park face significant pressure from local inhabitants and livestock.

Threats to Hangul

The most significant obstacles to Hangul conservation and population expansion, as identified by experts, include habitat fragmentation, predation, and a relatively low male-to-female ratio.

  • A lack of suitable breeding sites and fawn survival pose threats to population growth.
  • Disparities in male-female and fawn-adult ratios further complicate the Hangul population dynamics.
  • The influx of animal herds from nomadic settlements into Dachigam National Park has been a persistent problem.
  • Inadequate patrolling to curb wildlife crimes and security concerns hamper the effective implementation of protection measures in parts of the park.
  • Nomads have faced difficulties since the closure of their traditional paths during the armed conflict in Kashmir, limiting their access to grazing pastures in Gurez and forcing them to bring their herds to higher reaches of Dachigam during summer.
  • Other threats include predation by Common Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, and nomads’ dogs, particularly on fawns.
  • In contrast to other species, the genetic variation within the Hangul population in the Dachigam landscape appears to be low, rendering it vulnerable to the impacts of inbreeding.

Hangul Conservation Project

The Wildlife Conservation Fund was established in 2010 with the primary objective of protecting wildlife and wilderness in Jammu and Kashmir’s UT, giving Hangul conservation the utmost priority.

  • This initiative aimed to achieve its objectives through community involvement, wildlife education, and management practices.
  • Additionally, it sought to foster a shift in attitudes toward nature and promote harmony between humans and animals.
  • Under the umbrella of the Wildlife Conservation Fund, the Hangul Conservation Project was launched. The project’s focus was to address issues concerning various Hangul species in Kashmir, particularly in the Dachigam National Park.
  • It’s crucial to note that despite efforts, the project faced challenges, particularly due to limited participation from locals. Moreover, its scope was confined to a 10-kilometer radius around Dagwan.
  • Furthermore, government approvals for the construction of cement factories near Dachigam National Park posed a threat, leading to wildlife disruption.

Other Conservation Efforts for Hangul

Poaching remains the most serious threat to Hangul, despite ongoing conservation efforts. Priority must be given to eliminating poaching as a threat to the species.

  • Preventing the infiltration of nomadic livestock herders would reduce competition for grazing grounds and the risk of disease transmission.
  • Measures to reduce depredation by herding dogs are expected to improve fawn survival rates.
  • Managing the population of problem Leopards and Asiatic Black Bears can also mitigate predation on Hangul fawns and enhance survival.
  • Reintroducing Hangul to its original habitats and implementing effective conservation mechanisms are imperative.
  • Expansion of the Hangul’s range entails keeping upper Dachigam subalpine and alpine meadows and other previously occupied areas free from livestock and other anthropogenic pressures, including poaching.
  • Scientific research should inform efforts in mapping, protecting, and enhancing forest patches that serve as Hangul habitat.
  • A comprehensive management plan is necessary to prioritize conservation and research activities aimed at effective conservation of Hangul and its habitat.
  • A proposed Greater Dachigam ‘mega preserve’ aims to bolster protection in the Buffer Zone by upgrading conservation reserves.
  • Establishing an Eco-sensitive Zone to protect the last Shikargah sub-populations in Tral and Sindh areas is crucial.
  • Prioritizing conservation breeding is vital for Hangul preservation, with a focus on restoring earlier habitats like the Overa Wildlife Sanctuary and Shikargah Conservation Reserve.


The Hangul, also known as the Kashmiri Stag, is facing a disturbing decline in its fawn-hind and stag-hind ratios as revealed by the recent population monitoring project in Kashmir. This iconic species stands as one of the few remaining endangered species in the Himalayan landscape. Given its precarious situation, it is imperative that conservation and stabilization efforts for the Hangul population are prioritized. These efforts should include reintroducing the population to new habitats, mitigating the effects of conflict, implementing strong protection measures, and maintaining vigilance against poaching.

FAQs on Project Hangul

Question: What is Project Hangul?

Answer: Project Hangul is a conservation and protection initiative aimed at safeguarding the critically endangered Kashmir Stag, also known as Hangul. It involves various conservation measures, including habitat preservation, anti-poaching efforts, and community involvement, to ensure the survival and growth of the Hangul population.

Question: Which Indian National Park is Hangul’s sole habitat?

Answer: Dachigam National Park, located approximately 22 kilometers from Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, is the primary habitat of the Hangul. This park serves as a crucial sanctuary for the species, providing it with suitable habitats such as deciduous woodlands, upland moors, and alpine meadows.

Question: What are the major threats to Hangul?

Answer: The Hangul faces several significant threats to its survival, including habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, predation, and human-wildlife conflicts. Factors such as encroachment into its habitat, overgrazing by livestock, and illegal hunting contribute to the decline in Hangul populations. Additionally, the spread of diseases and the impact of climate change further exacerbate these threats, posing challenges to Hangul conservation efforts.

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