Operation Hangul

Operation Hangul 40th Anniversary - June 2014

OPERATION HANGUL (click here for a copy of the final report)

Operation Hangul was an expedition mounted from Cambridge University in 1974 to carry out a three month field survey of Cervus elaphus hanglu, the Kashmir Stag or Hangul.  The Hangul was known to be in a precarious status and was listed in the IUCN Red Data Book.  Previously plentiful in the hills and mountains around the beautiful Vale of Kashmir in northwestern India on the Pakistan border, the Hangul had been hunted for sport from earliest times.  The decline in numbers of the Hangul had been noted by naturalists from as early as the 1800s.  Much of the earlier published material was by the distinguished E. P. Gee, an member of the Bombay Natural History Society.  Shortly before the expedition was mounted, Fiona Guinness and Tim Clutton-Brock, both noted deer experts, had visited Kashmir and had gathered some useful field data, which confirmed that Hangul numbers were at a dangerously low level.

The purpose of the expedition was to estimate what the Hangul population was, where it was located, what the causes of the continuing decline were and to propose management measures to reverse the trend and save the race from extinction.

CWWSC sponsored the expedition with all funding being raised by appeal and from personal contribution.  A team of 12 graduates and undergraduates (see Personnel) was assembled to include biologists and medical, engineer and logistics members and a film crew.  The expedition took place from June to October in 1974 and the final report was published in December of that year.  It was sent to all relevant authorities and to all individuals and organizations which had supported the project, in particular the Species Survival Commission of IUCN, the Indian Federal Government and the Kashmir State Government.

As a result of the report, a full time biologist was hired to manage a programme  to implement a range of measures to assure the future of the wild population of the Hangul.  This was IUCN Project 1103.  Thereafter, the Hangul population increased considerably and it was being closely monitored. The expedition therefore had made a significant contribution to ACTIVE CONSERVATION.

However, conflict in Kashmir and the consequent high personal risk to field biologists means that the current status of the Hangul is not clear and there are renewed fears that armed combatants in the mountains are shooting them for food.

© Dewar Donnithorne-Tait 2015