Maiden snow leopard population assessment launched in J&K

A research team was flagged off by Suresh Kumar Gupta, principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden of J&K
India had launched Project Snow Leopard in 2009 to save the elusive and vulnerable species. (HT file photo)
India had launched Project Snow Leopard in 2009 to save the elusive and vulnerable species. (HT file photo)
Updated on Nov 10, 2021 10:11 AM IST
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ByHT Correspondent, Jammu

The Jammu and Kashmir department of wildlife protection has formally launched the first-ever snow leopard assessment in J&K.

A research team was flagged off by Suresh Kumar Gupta, principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden of J&K.

The survey is a part of the nationwide population assessment of snow leopards, being carried out as per the protocols laid by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change.

Snow leopard is one of the threatened species found in the rocky glaciated high mountains of Himalayas.

Snow leopard is found only in Central Asia, South Asia, China and Russian countries.

India had launched Project Snow Leopard in 2009 to save the elusive and vulnerable species. Unofficial estimates put the population of snow leopards in India around 500. It is believed that about 60% of the snow leopards in the country roam the snowy wilderness of the Himalayan region of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir at an altitude of about 3,000 metres. The rest are found in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

The present snow leopard population assessment in J&K covers potential areas in Kishtwar and adjoining forests in Jammu, Gurez, Thajwas and Overa Aru in Kashmir region.

In both the regions, the survey team comprising project research fellows, project assistants, field assistants and departmental staff would carry out camera trapping, photography, transact walk and scat sampling in potential snow leopard habitats in a systematic manner.

Suresh Gupta, while formally launching the project, emphasised on the importance of having a sound snow leopard conservation plan based on robust scientific data collected in collaboration with research institutions and NGOs.

He also highlighted the importance of extending protection, conservation and management aspects to the potential snow leopard habitat on landscape approach, which not only ensures long-term survival of threatened snow leopards but also secures water and biodiversity of the northern states of India. Snow leopard habitats also have major permanent glaciers which are the main source of water to the Himalayan rivers.

The department is planning to complete the survey in May-June next year to ensure inclusion of exact data of snow leopard population in J&K in the national database likely to be released by the central government in October, he added.

The department is carrying out this survey in collaboration with Institute of Mountain Environment, Bhaderwah Campus (Jammu University), Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture, Science & Technology, National Development Foundation, Wildlife Trust of India and Nature Conservation Foundation, Bangalore.

(With inputs from Srinagar)

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Saturday, November 27, 2021