Thursday, December 28, 2023

Hangul (Kashmir Stag)

Hangul UPSC (Kashmir Stag UPSC)

The Kashmir stag, also known as the Hangul, is a subspecies of Central Asian red deer native to India. Specifically, it is found in the dense riverine forests of the Kashmir Valley in Jammu and Kashmir and has been named the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Kashmir stag is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The population has significantly declined due to habitat destruction, poaching, and competition with domestic livestock.

Table of Contents

  • Hangul Deer Characteristics
    • Classification
    • Scientific Name
    • Subspecies
    • Habitat
    • Physical Appearance
    • Diet
    • Behavior
    • Reproduction
    • Lifespan
  • Hangul Deer in India
  • Hangul Deer Population
  • Project Hangul
  • Hangul Deer Protection Status
  • Hangul Deer Conservation
  • Threats
  • Hangul Deer UPSC Question

Hangul (Kashmir Stag) Characteristics

The Kashmir stag, or Hangul, possesses several distinct characteristics that contribute to its unique identity as a subspecies of red deer. Here are some notable characteristics of the Kashmir stag:

1. Classification:

Here is its classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Family: Cervidae
  • Genus: Cervus
  • Species: Cervus hanglu
  • Subspecies: Cervus hanglu hanglu

2. Scientific Name:

The scientific name of the Kashmir stag, also known as Hangul, is Cervus hanglu hanglu.

3. Subspecies:

The Hangul or Kashmir stag was initially believed to be a subspecies of red deer (Cervus elaphus). However, later genetic studies, specifically mitochondrial DNA analyses, suggested that the Hangul might be more closely related to the elk (Cervus canadensis) and placed it within the Asian clade of elk.

Despite these genetic studies, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the American Society of Mammalogists have categorized the Hangul within the grouping of Central Asian red deer (Cervus hanglu).

4. Habitat:

The Hangul, or Kashmir stag (Cervus hanglu hanglu), is native to the Kashmir Valley in the North-Western Himalayan region of India. Its habitat is characterized by dense riverine forests and high-altitude meadows in the Himalayan foothills. Here are some key aspects of the Hangul's habitat:

(i) Geographic Range:

The Hangul is endemic to the Kashmir Valley, which is part of the larger Himalayan mountain range in the Indian subcontinent.

(ii) Elevation:

The Hangul is adapted to a range of elevations, typically found in habitats situated at higher altitudes. These elevations may vary, but they are generally in the subalpine and alpine zones.

(iii) Vegetation:

The Hangul inhabits areas with diverse vegetation, including dense riverine forests and meadows. The forests often consist of coniferous and deciduous trees, providing cover and food for the deer.

(iv) Riverine Forests:

The dense riverine forests along the rivers and streams in the Kashmir Valley provide important habitat for the Hangul. These areas offer both food resources and cover.

(v) High-Altitude Meadows:

In addition to forests, the Hangul is known to frequent high-altitude meadows, where it can graze on a variety of grasses and other vegetation.

(vi) Seasonal Migration:

Hanguls may exhibit seasonal movements, particularly in response to changes in food availability and weather conditions. They may move to different elevations within their range.

5. Physical Appearance:

The Hangul has distinctive physical features that set it apart. Here are some key aspects of its physical appearance:

(i) Size:

The Hangul is a large deer, with males (stags) being larger than females (hinds). Adult males typically weigh between 150 to 250 kilograms, while females are somewhat smaller (110 to 170kg).

(ii) Coat Color:

The coat of the Hangul varies in color, ranging from light to dark brown. The coloration can also change seasonally, with the coat becoming thicker and darker during winter.

(iii) White Rump Patch:

One of the notable features of the Hangul is the presence of a white rump patch on the hindquarters. This distinctive marking helps in identification.

(iv) Antlers:

Male Hanguls are characterized by their impressive antlers. The antlers are branched and can have a substantial number of points. Antlers are shed and regrown annually, and their size and complexity often increase with the age of the deer.

(v) Facial Features:

The face of the Hangul typically has a gentle and expressive appearance. Their eyes are large, and they have a keen sense of vision, which is important for detecting predators.

(vi) Adaptations:

The Hangul has physical adaptations suited to its habitat in the Himalayan region. These include a thick coat for insulation in colder temperatures and hooves adapted for navigating varied terrains.

(vii) Sexual Dimorphism:

There is a noticeable difference between males and females. While males have antlers and are generally larger, females are smaller and lack antlers.

6. Diet:

What do Kashmir stag eat?

The diet of the Hangul is primarily herbivorous, consisting of a variety of vegetation found in its natural habitat in the Kashmir Valley. Here are some key aspects of the Hangul's diet:

(i) Grasses:

Hanguls graze on a variety of grasses that are abundant in their habitat. Grasses provide an essential source of nutrients, including carbohydrates, for these deer.

(ii) Forbs and Herbaceous Plants:

In addition to grasses, Hanguls consume various forbs and herbaceous plants. This diverse plant diet contributes to their overall nutrition.

(iii) Leaves:

Hanguls may browse on leaves from shrubs and low-lying vegetation. This behavior helps them obtain nutrients, especially during seasons when grasses might be less available or of lower nutritional value.

(iv) Tree Bark:

In certain situations, Hanguls may also consume tree bark. However, this is not their primary source of food, and they are not as adapted to browsing on woody vegetation as some other deer species.

(v) Seasonal Variations:

The diet of Hanguls can vary seasonally. During the warmer months, when vegetation is abundant, they may have access to a variety of fresh plants. In winter, when snow cover limits access to ground vegetation, they may rely more on woody browse or stored fat reserves.

(vi) Water: 

Hanguls, like many other deer species, obtain water from their diet and from drinking at rivers or streams within their habitat. They are adapted to the temperate and alpine ecosystems where water sources are typically available.

7. Behavior:

The behavior of the Hangul is influenced by various factors, including its natural habitat, social structure, and seasonal variations. Here are some key aspects of Hangul behavior:

(i) Crepuscular Activity:

Hanguls are crepuscular, meaning they are most active during the dawn and dusk hours. This behavior is an adaptation that helps them avoid predators and take advantage of favorable environmental conditions.

(ii) Social Structure:

Hanguls exhibit a social structure that includes small groups. The size of these groups can range from two to 18 individuals. The society of Kashmir stag is matriarchal. Female Hanguls (hinds) and their offspring often form herds, while adult males (stags) may be solitary or form small bachelor groups, particularly outside the breeding season. 

(iii) Breeding Behavior: 

The breeding season for Hanguls typically occurs in September and October. During this time, males engage in vocalizations and displays to attract females. Dominance displays, including antler fights between males, are common.

(iv) Territoriality: 

Males may establish territories during the breeding season and defend them against other males. The size and quality of a male's territory can influence its ability to attract mates.

(v) Vocalizations: 

Hanguls use vocalizations as a means of communication. During the breeding season, males may emit calls to attract females and establish dominance.

(vi) Migration: 

Hanguls may exhibit seasonal movements or migration, often in response to changes in food availability and weather conditions. They may move to different elevations within their range.

(vii) Alertness: 

Hanguls are known for their keen senses, especially vision. They are alert and can quickly detect predators, helping them survive in their natural environment.

(viii) Adaptations to Habitat:

The behavior of Hanguls is adapted to their habitat in the North-Western Himalayan region. They navigate the varied terrain, including dense forests and high-altitude meadows, and are equipped with physical adaptations such as a thick coat for insulation.

(ix) Resting and Shelter: 

Hanguls find shelter in the dense riverine forests, and they may rest or lie down in concealed spots during periods of inactivity.

8. Reproduction:

The reproduction of the Hangul involves specific behaviors and biological processes. Here are key aspects of Hangul reproduction:

(i) Breeding Season:

The breeding season for Hanguls typically occurs in September and October. This period is characterized by increased hormonal activity and behavioral changes in both male and female Hanguls.

(ii) Mating Behavior:

During the breeding season, male Hanguls, known as stags, engage in various behaviors to attract females (hinds). This includes vocalizations, displays, and sometimes antler fights between males to establish dominance and access to mates.

(iii) Mating Rituals:

Stags may use their antlers for displays and rituals to impress females. The size and complexity of antlers often play a role in determining a male's attractiveness to females.

(iv) Courtship:

Courtship behaviors involve interactions between males and females, where the males attempt to woo and attract the females. This can include following, sniffing, and vocalizations.

(v) Gestation:

After successful mating, the gestation period for female Hanguls is typically around eight months. This period may vary slightly based on individual factors.

(vi) Birth:

Female Hanguls give birth to a single fawn, although there are occasional instances of twins. The birthing usually takes place in secluded areas where the mother can protect the newborn.

(vii) Calf Development:

Hangul calves are born with a spotted coat that provides camouflage in their natural environment. The mother cares for and nurses the calf, and they stay in close proximity during the early stages of the calf's life.

(viii) Maternal Care:

Female Hanguls, or hinds, are responsible for the care and protection of their offspring. The mother ensures that the calf receives proper nutrition through nursing and teaches it essential survival skills.

(ix) Maturity:

Hanguls reach sexual maturity at different ages depending on factors such as sex and environmental conditions. Generally, males mature later than females.

9. Lifespan:

The lifespan of the Hangul can vary based on factors such as environmental conditions, predation risks, and individual health. In the wild, the lifespan of Hanguls is influenced by various challenges they face, including habitat degradation and the threat of poaching. Generally, the lifespan of Hanguls is estimated to be around 15 to 18 years in their natural habitat.

Hangul (Kashmir Stag) in India

Q. Hangul deer is found in which part of India?/Where is Hangul or Kashmir stag found?/Where is rare Hangul deer found?

The Hangul, or Kashmir stag (Cervus hanglu hanglu), is found in specific regions of India, primarily in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir and northern Himachal Pradesh. Here are key points regarding its distribution and conservation:

1. Primary Habitat:

The Hangul is found in dense riverine forests, high valleys, and mountains of Jammu and Kashmir and northern Himachal Pradesh. Its habitat includes areas with specific elevation ranges and vegetation types.

2. Protected Areas:

The primary protected area for the conservation of Hangul is the Dachigam National Park in Jammu and Kashmir. This park plays a crucial role in safeguarding the genetically viable population of Hangul, and the species is known to inhabit the park and its nearby areas.

3. Other Protected Areas:

Apart from Dachigam National Park, there are other protected areas where Hangul populations are observed. These include Rajparian Wildlife SanctuaryOvera-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary in south Kashmir, Sind Valley, and the forests of Kishtwar and Bhaderwah.

4. Population Decline:

The historic distribution of Hangul covered a wider range in the mountains of Kashmir Himalaya, the Chenab Valley in Jammu, and parts of the Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh. However, due to factors such as hunting, poaching, habitat fragmentation, and degradation, the distribution has significantly declined.

5. Restricted Range:

Presently, the genetically viable Hangul population is confined to specific areas, primarily the 141 km² Dachigam National Park, with a few isolated herds in its adjoining protected areas.

6. State Animal:

The Hangul is recognized as the state animal of the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

7. Population Surveys:

Range-wide surveys conducted from 2000 to 2009 indicated that the Hangul is restricted to approximately 351 km² of its possible range, which is significantly less than its historical distribution.

Hangul (Kashmir Stag) Population

Q. What is the population of Hangul deer?/How many Kashmir stag are left?

1. Historical Population:

In the 1940s, the Hangul population in Kashmir was estimated to be between 3000 and 5000 individuals, indicating a relatively healthy population at that time.

2. Population Decline:

Since the 1940s, the Hangul population has experienced a drastic decline. The causes of this decline include habitat destruction, over-grazing by domestic livestock, and poaching.

3. Current Population:

As of 2023, the Hangul population has marginally increased to 289 individuals from 197 individuals recorded in 2004. This modest increase may be attributed to conservation efforts and initiatives aimed at protecting the species.

4. Restricted Range:

The Hangul population faces the additional challenge of a restricted range, primarily confined to specific protected areas such as Dachigam National Park and its nearby regions. The limited distribution further exacerbates the conservation concerns.

Project Hangul

Project Hangul, initiated in 1970 by the Kashmir government with the assistance of WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), was aimed at the conservation and protection of the Hangul, also known as the Kashmir red deer (Cervus hanglu hanglu). This species is native to northern India, particularly the Kashmir region. Here are key points about Project Hangul:

1. Initiation and Objectives:

Project Hangul was launched in response to the declining population of Hanguls. At the beginning of the 20th century, their numbers were estimated to be around 5000, but by 1970, due to various threats such as habitat destruction, overgrazing by domestic livestock, and poaching, the population had dwindled to around 150 individuals.

2. Collaboration with WWF:

The project received support from WWF, an international environmental organization, to implement conservation measures for the Hangul.

3. Rechristening in 2009:

In 2009, the project was renamed "Save Kashmir’s Red Deer Hangul" to signify its continued efforts to conserve the Hangul population.

4. Conservation Breeding Centers:

As part of the Species Recovery Programme, conservation breeding centers were established at Sikargah, Tral, Pulwama District, and Kangan. However, progress in increasing Hangul numbers through these centers has been limited.

5. Positive Results in the 1980s:

Despite challenges, Project Hangul initially showed positive results, with the population reportedly increasing to over 340 by 1980.

The history of Project Hangul highlights both successes and challenges in the conservation efforts for the Hangul population in the Kashmir region. Ongoing and adaptive conservation strategies are crucial for the continued survival and recovery of this critically endangered species.

Hangul (Kashmir Stag) Protection Status

The protection status of the Hangul, or Kashmir stag (Cervus hanglu hanglu) as follows:

1. IUCN Status:

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorized the Hangul as "Critically Endangered," indicating a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

2. CITES Status:

The Hangul is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Species listed in Appendix I are considered to be at the highest risk, and international trade in specimens of these species is generally prohibited.

3. Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972:

The Hangul is listed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Schedule I provides the highest level of legal protection, and offenses related to species listed in this schedule typically incur severe penalties.

4. J&K Wildlife Protection Act, 1978:

The Hangul is also listed under Schedule I of the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Act, 1978. This listing emphasizes the importance of protecting the species within the state's jurisdiction.

These legal designations and protection statuses highlight the recognition of the Hangul's critical conservation status and the need for comprehensive measures to safeguard the species from various threats, including habitat loss, poaching, and other anthropogenic pressures.

Hangul (Kashmir Stag) Conservation

Conservation efforts for the Hangul, or Kashmir stag (Cervus hanglu hanglu), are crucial due to its critically endangered status. Several conservation initiatives have been implemented to address the various threats faced by this species. Key aspects of conservation efforts include:

1. Habitat Protection and Restoration:

  • Identification and protection of critical habitats, including national parks and wildlife sanctuaries like Dachigam National Park.
  • Restoration and rehabilitation of degraded habitats to provide suitable environments for Hanguls.

2. Anti-Poaching Measures:

  • Increased patrolling and monitoring to prevent poaching of Hanguls.
  • Implementation of strict legal measures and penalties for those involved in illegal hunting or trading of Hanguls or their body parts.

3. Community Engagement:

  • Involvement of local communities in conservation efforts to ensure their support and cooperation.
  • Community-based initiatives for sustainable livelihoods that reduce dependence on Hangul habitats for resources.

4. Research and Monitoring:

  • Scientific studies to understand Hangul ecology, behavior, and health.
  • Regular monitoring of Hangul populations to assess population dynamics and identify emerging threats.

5. Genetic Conservation:

  • Measures to maintain genetic diversity and prevent inbreeding within Hangul populations.
  • Conservation breeding programs to enhance genetic resilience and increase population numbers.

6. International Collaboration:

  • Collaboration with international organizations, such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), for funding, expertise, and support in Hangul conservation.

7. Awareness and Education:

  • Public awareness campaigns to educate local communities, tourists, and the general public about the importance of Hangul conservation.
  • Educational programs in schools and communities to instill a sense of responsibility toward wildlife conservation.

8. Legislation and Policy:

  • Strengthening and enforcement of wildlife protection laws and policies.
  • Advocacy for stronger legal measures against activities that threaten Hangul populations.

9. Conservation Breeding Programs:

  • Establishment of conservation breeding centers to enhance the captive population and facilitate reintroduction efforts.
  • Research on breeding behavior, reproductive physiology, and health management of Hanguls in captivity.

10. Habitat Connectivity:

  • Initiatives to maintain or restore habitat connectivity to allow for natural movements and gene flow among Hangul populations.


Q. Why is Kashmir red stag endangered?

The Hangul, or Kashmir stag (Cervus hanglu hanglu), faces several threats that have contributed to its critically endangered status. Key challenges and threats to the Hangul population include:

1. Habitat Threats:

The Hangul faces significant challenges related to habitat fragmentation and degradation. Urbanization, agricultural expansion, and infrastructure development have altered the landscape, leading to the loss and degradation of critical Hangul habitats. This has restricted the distribution range of the species, limiting their ability to thrive in their natural environments.

2. Overgrazing and Competition:

The competition for resources with domestic livestock, resulting in overgrazing, poses a substantial threat to Hanguls. Reduced availability of forage contributes to malnutrition and increased conflicts between Hanguls and domestic animals. These challenges affect the overall health and well-being of the Hangul population.

3. Poaching Pressures:

Illegal hunting and poaching have emerged as direct threats to the Hangul population. The demand for Hangul meat, antlers, and other body parts has led to a decline in their numbers. Poaching activities need urgent attention and stringent measures to ensure the species' protection.

4. Reproductive Challenges:

A concerning issue is the observed low fawn-female ratio among Hanguls. This indicates difficulties in successful reproduction and recruitment. Factors contributing to these reproductive challenges may include predation, habitat quality, and other ecological stressors that impact the reproductive success of the species.

5. Predation Dynamics:

Changes in predation dynamics, possibly linked to alterations in predator populations or human-induced impacts on ecosystems, have added to the threats faced by Hanguls. Increased predation pressure, especially on fawns, contributes to the overall challenges in maintaining a stable population.

6. Habitat Destruction and Pollution:

The destruction of Hangul habitats due to logging, agriculture, and infrastructure development has resulted in a loss of breeding areas. Environmental pollution, including water and air pollution, further degrades the quality of Hangul habitats. These factors compromise the overall health of the population.

7. Occupation by Other Species:

The occupation of key Hangul habitats by wild dogs, shepherds, or other species poses an additional challenge. This competition for space and resources impacts the Hangul's ability to thrive in specific regions, particularly in higher elevations where key breeding areas are located.

8. Genetic Diversity Concerns:

Limited genetic diversity, a consequence of small and isolated populations, poses a long-term threat to the Hangul's viability. The lack of genetic variability reduces the species' adaptive capacity and resilience to environmental changes.

Hangul (Kashmir Stag) UPSC Question

Q. What is the other name for the Hangul deer?

A. The Hangul deer, scientifically known as Cervus hanglu hanglu, is also commonly referred to as the Kashmir stag. "Hangul" is the local name used in the Kashmir region, and "stag" is a term often used for male deer. Therefore, the name "Kashmir stag" is another widely recognized term for this particular subspecies of red deer found in the Kashmir region of India.

Q. Why is deer called Hangul?

A. The name "Hangul" for the deer species in the Kashmir region comes from its favorite food, the Indian horse chestnut (Aesculus indica), locally known as "han" in the region. The Hangul deer is known to feed on the fruits of the horse chestnut tree, and the name reflects the close association between the deer and its preferred food source. This connection between the Hangul deer and the horse chestnut tree is embedded in the local language and cultural context, highlighting the ecological relationship between the species and its habitat.

Q. Kashmir stag found in which national park?

A. The Kashmir stag, also known as Hangul (Cervus hanglu hanglu), is primarily found in Dachigam National Park. Dachigam National Park is located in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India. This national park is a protected area that provides a crucial habitat for the critically endangered Hangul deer. Dachigam National Park, situated near Srinagar, has been instrumental in the conservation efforts aimed at preserving the remaining population of Hangul deer in the Kashmir region.

Q. Which sanctuary is famous for the unique hangul deer?/Hangul deer found in which sanctuary?

A. Besides Dachigam National Park, there are other protected areas and sanctuaries where Hangul populations are observed. Two such areas mentioned are:

  • Rajparian Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary
Hangul (Kashmir Stag)

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