From: Sheikh Mushtaq, Reuters
Published March 29, 2006 12:00 AM

Kashmir's Rare Red Deer to Get Hi-Tech Protection

SRINAGAR, India — Wildlife authorities in India's part of Kashmir plan to use satellite-tracking technology to help save the endangered red deer from poachers who target the animal for its meat and antlers.

Environment officials say there are only about 150 red deer left in the state's forested mountains, from more than 900 in 1989 because of poaching and neglect aggravated by a 16-year-old separatist revolt.

The animals, known locally as the hangul, will be fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS) collars to track them, an official said.

"GPS technology has brought great hope for this poor animal," M.S. Bacha, the chief wildlife warden for Kashmir, told Reuters. "We can't physically reach many hangul habitats in dense forests and mountains."

The first animals will be fitted with a GPS collar in the next few weeks in forests near the village of Dachigam 25 km (15 miles) northeast of the state's summer capital, Srinagar.

"Since they move in herds we will attach collars to about 10 hanguls initially," Bacha added.

The government will also set up a breeding centre and deer park in the hill resorts of Pahalgam and Gulmarg in a bid to reverse the animal's decline, which officials said, had been hastened by the conflict in the Himalayan region.

"There was lawlessness in the valley and the poor animal was ruthlessly slaughtered and its meat was openly sold here in this area," said Abdul Qadir, a 55-year-old Dachigam villager.

People convicted of killing endangered animals can be jailed for up to seven years under Indian wildlife laws.

"Besides GPS tracking, the government should a launch a comprehensive awareness campaign to save the hangul, which is the pride of Kashmir," said Abdul Qayoom Sheikh, a wildlife expert.

More than 45,000 people have died in Kashmir since Muslim militants launched an armed revolt against Indian rule in 1989.

Source: Reuters

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