DEHRADUN: Uttarakhand is all geared up to conduct its maiden survey on snow leopards for which the Indo-Tibetan Border Police will be roped in for the nearly two-year exercise.
“The census will be conducted on the basis of camera trap pictures, pugmark, excreta and other evidence. Work will start after winters are over,” said RK Mishra, nodal officer for the project ‘Secure Himalaya’.
The project’s key focus area is protection of snow leopard and other endangered species along with their habitats. Securing livelihoods of the people in region and enhancing enforcement to reduce wildlife crime are other objectives.
Wildlife experts estimate that there are over 80 snow leopards in Uttarakhand, but never before a census of this elusive wild cat has been done. Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Gangotri National Park, Askot Wildlife Sanctuary and other places located at an altitude between 3,000 and 4,500 meters are said to be frequented by snow leopards.
In 2017, the Centre had launched the ‘SECURE Himalaya’, a six-year project, to ensure conservation of locally and globally significant biodiversity, land and forest resources in high Himalayan ecosystem spread over Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.
Experts pointed out that observing snow leopard is a challenging task due to its secretive nature and legendary camouflage. “Various threats to the endangered species have been identified including habitat fragmentation and degradation due to growing human habitation, illegal trade in fur and bones, and poor law enforcement undermine conservation efforts globally,” Vipul Maurya, a wildlife scholar said.
Conservation includes working with local communities, enhancing local capacity for conservation by promoting communities.