The Hangul, also known as the Kashmir deer or stag, has its last stronghold in Dachigam National Park — but is it even safe there? Not really. Conservationists are warning that the shy Indian deer “may soon go extinct” without urgent action.

Saving “The Most Endangered Species of India”

While the Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) continues to thrive across the planet, it’s relative, the Hangul (Cervus elaphus hanglu) isn’t nearly as lucky. According to RelivEarth, it went from thriving in the high altitudes of India and Pakistan to being “the most endangered species of India;” The stag’s numbers dropped from 5,000 before the 1950s to only 220 members in a 2011 population survey. The Hangul is classified as a CITES Appendix 1 species — meaning that it’s one of the most endangered animals on the planet and that it faces a serious threat of extinction.

Indian authorities are trying to save the endangered stag. Earlier this month, The Tribune India reported how the Park’s wildlife officials have banned private vehicles, with the exception of government ones, from entering the Park in an effort to protect the Hangul. Disturbances, like cars, are believed to be behind the recent episodes of fawn abortions. The babies that do survive often become the victims of the dogs and other wild animals, such as jackals and foxes, that accompany the grazers, says The Times of India.

Park officials are also cracking down on local and migratory grazers from bringing their livestock herds (another disturbance) into the park. According to The Tribune India, grazing in the Dachigam National Park is a major stressor on the deer:

“The grazers began bringing their herds in increasing numbers to Dachigam at the onset of militancy in the region as other pastures became out of bounds due to security reasons. The trend has continued over past two decades and intensely disturbed the habitat of hangul.”

While wildlife officials are taking steps in the right direction to protect the Hangul from outside disturbances, many are reluctant to tackle what is inside of the Park: a sheep breeding farm.

Yup, you read that correctly.

There’s a 100-acre sheep breeding farm owned by the government in a prime Hangul breeding area. The irony.

Samina Amin, a researcher in the wildlife department, isn’t afraid to speak out on the serious cognitive dissonance going on with a sheep breeding farm inside a National Park. “Call it (Dachigam) anything but a national park,” Amin tells The Times of India. The researcher adds that the sheep breeding center is also a breeding center for bacterial infections that result in low Hangul birth rates.

Apart from these major threats, the National Park’s growing problem of terrorism also affects the Kashmir Stag because terrorists hunt them for meat, says RelivEarth.

Unfortunately, many wild animals are going extinct because their habitat was destroyed to make room for livestock. National Parks are so important because they’re supposed to be one of the last “untouched” spaces where wildlife can still be, well, wild.

But wild animals don’t understand these new boundaries and will often veer into livestock areas to graze or to hunt. Deer may not be hunting sheep, but they still pose a threat and vice versa. For instance, Red Deer can host brucellosis that impairs a sheep’s fertility, and, ultimately, a farmer’s profits. Sadly, livestock animals often take precedence over wildlife since they have a price tag.

Take Action!

If you agree that a sheep breeding farm doesn’t belong inside of a National Park, then sign and share this petition urging Indian authorities to move the sheep breeding farm out of Dachigam National Park and to offer the endangered Hangul more protection before it’s too late.

Source: India’s Rare Kashmir Stag Could Go Extinct Soon | Care2 Causes