The endangered 'Hangul', a rare species of red deer, is preparing to fight the bone chilling winter in the snow-laden Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary located on outskirts of Srinagar. Forest rangers said they have made special food arrangements to keep the antlered stag in good health.
Wildlife guards were seen placing salt blocks on tree branches convenient for the deer to lick in order to receive the nutrients required to fight the chill.
The scent of the exposed salt trees attracts deer from long distances.
Forest ranges said that the Kashmir stag needs salt to sustain itself during harsh winter months as temperatures plummet due to incessant snowfall.
"We have provided them food for two days at the moment. After two days we will provide them more food. We have to do this continuously so that the deer can sustain themselves in the biting cold," said a forest official, Khurshid Ahmed.
Kashmir is also home to rare birds like the black partridge leopards, musk red deer.
Winter months are harsh due to rough weather conditions with least vegetation in the region, which results in starving of wild animals, including Hangul.
"Eating food, especially during winters is very important for deer as it keeps them warm in the cold. In the coming days, excessive snowfall would make it tough for animals to find food, so we provide them timely food. We would also provide them vegetables," said another forest official, Gulam Ahmed Bhat.
An anti-India insurgency that broke out over two decades ago in the disputed Himalayan region ruined the habitat of the red deer, killed for its meat by both rebels and security forces. The deer were estimated to number around 900 when fighting first erupted.
Wildlife guards say poachers also killed the deer for its meat and antlers, which fetch high black market prices. Worst hit were its chief breeding ground in the upper reaches of Dachigam Sanctuary.
According to authorities the number of threatened black bear, which also inhabit hilly and mountainous forests across Asia from Afghanistan to Taiwan, has jumped in Kashmir to 2,500-3,000 from 700-800 since 1990. (ANI)