‘Hangul’ (Kashmiri stag), the only surviving species of the red deer family in Kashmir, appears to be on the verge of extinction.

According to the figures available with the state wildlife department, the rare animal’s strength fell from 5,000 in the beginning of last century to 900 in 1980s, when militancy broke out in the border state.

The latest census of 2008 put the figure at 117-180, department sources said.

With the help of World Wildlife Fund’s ‘Project Hangul’ started in the 70’s, their population had gone to 340 by the 80’s. But it was short lived.

Hangul is the state animal and the fall in their number is a matter of concern.

At a recently concluded international conference on Hangul, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had said, “We will not let the Hangul go extinct“.

Governor N N Vohra said the depletion in the rare animal’s number was due to human interference.

Adding to the possible extinction list are Markhur, Himalayan Bear and the Musk Deer. Melting of glaciers, depletion of forest covers and water bodies have made their survival difficult.

Experts blame poaching and other human activities responsible for the depletion of Hangul. Destruction of natural habitats, grazing by livestock and deforestation are other causes.

They believe that environmental issues like depletion of ozone layer, global warming and climate change are also responsible for the present situation.

The Dachigam Sanctuary on the city outskirts, spread over 140 sq km, which is home to Hangul, came under the sway of militants. They killed the animal for its meat.

For well over a decade, the area has been out of bounds for the security forces.

Besides Dachigam, the rare animal is seen in Wadwan valley, Bhaderwah, Kishtwar and Tilel regions of the state.

The male deer has impressive antlers and long hair on neck. Hides and antlers of Hangul are considered of high value in international market, sources said.

Hangul has red—brownish coat bringing them to the fold of red deer. The colour, however, changes with season and age.

As regard tigers, the latest census counted just 1,411 big cats, down from 3,642 in 2002 and around 40,000 a century ago, they said.

Tigers and leopards are also falling to the greed of man as they are being hunted for their medicinal values.

Despite the ‘Project Tiger’ launched by the government long ago, a little is done for their conservation, they said.