- Recently, India has launched its first ever rare snow leopard census and its elusive population that mainly inhabits the higher reaches of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand but is also found in Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
- In the first step, the “scientific estimate” is being carried out by the Uttarakhand Forest department and Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and will focus on sightings by residents of hilly areas, who migrate to the plains during the winter, and paramilitary personnel.
- Equipped with GPS and binoculars, and questionnaires for local residents and paramilitary personnel about the sites where they usually spot snow leopards and their prey.
- Respondents will be asked to identify snow leopards from photos of animals found at those heights, including co-predators like Himalayan brown bear, Asiatic black bear, common leopard, tiger and red fox.
- Three identified snow leopard landscapes — in Ladakh, Gangotri-Nanda Devi, Sikkim-Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh) — will be covered
Snow Leopard Census
- According to a habitat-based estimate three years ago, there are 626 snow leopards scattered across a 1.2-lakh sq km area at heights of between 3,000 to 5,000 metres. As per that estimate, Ladakh has 130 snow leopards followed by Himachal Pradesh with 90 and Uttarakhand 86.
About Snow Leopard
- Snow leopards are categorized as ‘Vulnerable’ by IUCN and in the Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
- They are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), revealing the need for the highest conservation status to the species, both globally and in India.
- Project Snow Leopard (PSL) : It promotes an inclusive and participatory approach to conservation that fully involves local communities.
- SECURE Himalaya: Global Environment Facility (GEF)-United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funded the project on conservation of high altitude biodiversity and reducing the dependency of local communities on the natural ecosystem. This project is now operational in four snow leopard range states, namely, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim.
- In 2013, the Bishkek Declaration was endorsed by the governments of twelve snow leopard range countries, to ensure that snow leopards and the people who live among them thrive in healthy ecosystems. The Bishkek Declaration set a goal of protecting at least 20 snow leopard landscapes with viable snow leopard populations by 2020, and led to the formation of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP).
- The Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP): The GSLEP is a world first joint initiative that aims to conserve the endangered snow leopard within the broader context of also conserving valuable high mountain ecosystems. GSLEP unites all 12 range country governments, nongovernmental and inter-governmental organisations, local communities, and the private sector around this aim.
Source: Indian Express
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