Hangul, also known as the Kashmiri stag, is the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir and is the only Asiatic sub-species of the European red deer. This deer has a light rump-patch on its body and the color of its coat is brown with speckled hairs. The local name ‘hangul’, is said to have come from either the preferred food of the animal — the Indian horse chestnut (Aesculus indicia), known as ‘Han Doon’ — or its antlers (known as ‘heng’ in the local dialect).
The hangul was first identified by Alfred Wagner in 1844, with the species believed to have
traveled all the way from Bukhara in Central Asia, to Kashmir. Today, it is found in the dense riverside-forests of the Dachigam National Park in Harwan, 22 km from Srinagar. The Kashmiri Stag is herbivorous; it feeds on flowers, leaves, tender shoots of shrubs, lichens, mosses, ferns, and mushrooms.
The animal was classified as ‘critically endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Habitat destruction, over-grazing by domestic livestock, and poaching have reduced their numbers dramatically. In the 1940s, their population was said to be between 3000 and 5000, whereas according to the Hangul Census of 2019, there were only 237 of them left. Hanguls play an important role in the ecology of Kashmir. There is an imperative need to curb human involvement in wildlife and ecology. Even though we don’t recognize it but each individual of the society affects the very core of ecology, either by adopting ethical ideals or by disregarding them; we stand at the pedestal of existence and only by inculcating empathy for each living being can we move towards a better future. As the saying goes, we have borrowed the world from our future generations, not inherited it from our ancestors.