Park: amidst forests of silver birch and conifer roams the hangul.
Rare and on the verge of extinction till a few years ago, the national
park at Dachigam contains the last viable hangul population in the world.
Related to the red deer of Europe, this breed is characterized by its white
rump patch and impressive spread of antlers.
Of an the many sanctuaries in the state, the one at Dachigam is the best known. At one time the exclusive hunting pre-serve of the Maharaja of Kashmir, it was declared a national park in 1951, and owing to a strictly enforced conservation programme, the hangul population, once 150, now stands at over 400 animals.
Dachigam, spread over an area of 141 sq km, is the home of 20 mammal species including the leopard and over 150 species of avifauna. Open throughout the year, there is no prime viewing season, as the visitor will find something of in-terest all through the year. At Panzgam, Laribal, Sangargulu and Gratnar are huts for overnight stay.
The Hemis High Altitude National Park: includes the catchments of two valleys which drain into the River Indus. It is named after the famous monas-tery - Hemis, and sprawls over 600 sq km. approachable by road from Leh. This national park contains several camping sites. The area is barren and rocky, covered only sparsely with vegetation. Most of the ten species of mammal here are extremely rare - shapu, bharal, great Tibetan sheep, ibex and snow leopard. The avifauna too comprises species which are not seen at lower altitudes: Himalayan snow cock being an example. The best season for mammal viewing is September to May and for bird viewing March to May and September to December. For passes contact the Wildlife Warden, Leh.
Overa Wildlife Sanctuary: located 76 km from Srinagar, near Pahalgam, it has an area of 32 sq km, and is famed for its many species of pheasants. It sustains 13 species of mammals and over 80 species of birds. The best time to visit the sanctuary for mammal viewing is September to April and for bird viewing from March to August.
Overa-Aru Biosphere Reserve: located 76 km from Srinagar, near Pahalgam, it has an area of 32 sq km. Several species of birds as wed as fauna are found here - musk deer, brown bear, leopard to name a few. The altitudinal range varies from 3,000 to 5,425 metros above sea level. Prime viewing time for the upper areas is from May to August. In the lower areas, for bird viewing the best time is March to May and for animal viewing from September to March.
Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve: 48 km from Srinagar, the reserve has an area of lS0 so km. and an altitudinal range of 2,400 - 4,300 metres above sea level. Fauna includes Himalayan musk deer, red fox, brown and blackbear. Among avifauna are upland birds, both resident and migratory. The best time for animal viewing is September to March and for bird viewing March to May.
Ramnagar Wildlife Sanctuary: situated only 6 km away from Jammu city, this sanctuary occupies an area of 31 km. The area sustains 8 mammal species including nilgai and barking deer, and 15 species of birds. The best season for mammal viewing is September to March and for bird viewing March to May.
Other sanctuaries near Jammu are:
Nandni Wildlife Sanctuary: (26 km) the sanctuary has an area of 33 sq km.
Surinsar Mansar Wildlife Sanctuary: named for the two lakes on each corner of it, this sanctuary comprises an area of 98 sq km, and supports a mammal popu-lation of 8 species, and upto 15 species of birds.
Jasrota Wildlife Sanctuary: spread over an area of 10 sq km, the sanctuary hou-ses an appreci-able variety of bird and animal life, most nota-bly cheetal or axis deer.
Kishtwar Hi-gh Altitude Na-tional Park: in Jammu is in-teresting for the marked variations in topography and vegetation that occur here. Spread over an area of 400 sq km, the park contains 15 mammal species including the musk deer, and Himalavan black and brown bear. There are 50 species of birds. Prime mammal viewing season is from March to May.