Snow leopard count is rising, points first-time study
On Wednesday, the wild cat was spotted in Chicham village in Kibber area in the high-altitude cold desert, the first sighting of the season.
CHANDIGARH: Three cheers for wildlife lovers: A first-time study on the elusive snow leopard says the big cat’s population has increased. The sightings of the endangered species too have gone up in Lahaul-Spiti, the tribal district of Himachal Pradesh, and expanded to neighbouring Kinnaur and Pangi areas.
On Wednesday, the wild cat was spotted in Chicham village in Kibber area in the high-altitude cold desert, the first sighting of the season. The study, done for the first time by Himachal Pradesh’s wildlife with help from the Mysore-based Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), places the current number of the snow leopard between 52 and 73. Himachal forest officials told this paper that it took four years to complete the study, which was submitted last year.
The predator’s key area of movement is the cold desert of the trans-Himalayan region. The snow leopard population is steadily increasing, the study points out. Himachal’s Chief Wildlife Warden Rajiv Kumar says the forest department has stepped up efforts to improve the animal habitat, enhance ecology and reduce the human-animal conflict.
The forest department has noted around 15 sightings in recent months as the cats come down to drink water and for their prey, say officials. Kumar said the increased sightings of the snow leopard are good signs of conservation and protection and availability of prey base.
Dinesh Sharma, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Lahaul said the study on the number of snow leopards included trail mapping, satellite survey, sign survey and other techniques. “The study indicates the prey base is adequate in the region,” said Sharma.
He said tourists and locals should not chase the wild cats and stay away from their natural habitat. “They should also not share their actual location on social media and other platforms without valid permission. Filming too should be avoided,” said Sharma.
Sources said under the ‘Secure Himalayan Project,’ the Environment Ministry along with the Himachal wildlife department is implementing a model involving local communities to conserve the habitat of the big cats and provide alternative livelihood opportunities to the people in the region.