Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Himachal Pradesh emerges as haven for snow leopard

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Shimla: At a time when there are disconcerting reports about increasing threats to the wildlife and their depleting population in the country, there is good news for the wildlife lovers. Himachal Pradesh has emerged as model state in protection of endangered and most elusive snow leopard.

An estimated presence of 35 wildcats is expected in this hill state. Efforts are underway to install six radio or satellite collar under Project Snow Leopard to ascertain their exact number.

The snow leopard, a graceful golden-eyed animal with thick fur, padded paws and a long tail, is found in rocky regions at an altitude of 2,700 to 6,000 meters. The snow leopard is a globally endangered species as wildlife officials feels that its global estimated number is about 7,500.

Snow Leopard Project Director and Nature Conservation Foundation-based senior scientist Yashvir Bhatnagar has asked the other Himalayan states to emulate Himachal Pradesh to protect threatened wild cat. Dr Bhatnagar was in the town recently to contemplate on the important points while interacting with State Wildlife and Forest Department official.

Wildlife wing’s study shows the presence of seven to eight snow leopards per 100 square km in the Spiti Valley. About 15 forest blocks have been found having good number of wild animals in the state.

Apart from the Spiti Valley, the state’s Pin Valley National Park, the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, the Great Himalayan National Park and the Pangi and Bharmour areas of Chamba district have a sizeable population of snow leopard. It has been found in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

Himachal Pradesh would be first state in Asia to have first Snow Leopard Research Centre and second after Mangolia where a lot of information has been collected about this wild animal. An amount of Rs 5.50 crore was sanctioned to set up this centre to study its population sample, habitat, behaviour and prey pattern.

Under this project, a management plan was chalked out after identifying 4,000 sq Km landscape in Spiti valley where this wild animal has been seen in the past. The permission to install six radio collars was sought from the Minister of Environment and Forests.

Radio collaring will help learning more about the habitat, range and behaviour of the snow leopards. “Radio collars will help in understanding the behavioural patterns of the snow leopard and the reasons for man-animal conflict. The collar would help to track pregnant leopards to solitary den sites in rocky slopes after the mating season in mid-March,” Davinder Chauhan, a wildlife official working on snow leopard conservation in the Spiti Valley said.

So far state’s wildlife department is already monitoring the snow leopards through cameras in the Spiti Valley, located in line with Indo-Sino borders.

With help of Mysore Nature Conservation Foundation, 60 automatic cameras have been laid in the valley.

The presence of a sizable population of prey species like the Asiatic ibex – a wild goat species – the Himalayan blue sheep and the wolf indicates that the valley supports a good population of the wildcats. One of the cameras captured shots of a pack of dogs attacking a snow leopard. According to wildlife experts, the rise in the population of abandoned dogs might pose a threat to the snow leopards and their food chain.

“The dogs usually attack in a pack and it’s easy for them to hunt even big mammals like the Himalayan blue sheep. This might reduce the prey base of the wild cat,” an expert said. (UNI)

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