Rare sighting of snow leopard in Kashmir, conservationists elated

Updated on Nov 09, 2022 07:43 AM IST

The sighting has brought hope among wildlife conservationists who said there is limited evidence of snow leopards across the union territory.

An adult leopard has been identified from pictures captured using infrared camera traps, in early October, in the upper Baltal-Zojila axis at a height of 3500-3800 metres above sea level. (HT Photo)
An adult leopard has been identified from pictures captured using infrared camera traps, in early October, in the upper Baltal-Zojila axis at a height of 3500-3800 metres above sea level. (HT Photo)
ByAshiq Hussain

A snow leopard has been sighted on camera in Kashmir, almost a year after the Jammu and Kashmir government started a census of the threatened species found in the high mountains of the Himalayas.

The sighting has brought hope among wildlife conservationists who said there is limited evidence of snow leopards across the union territory.

An adult leopard - Panthera Uncia - has been identified from pictures captured using infrared camera traps, in early October, in the upper Baltal-Zojila axis at a height of 3500-3800 metres above sea level.

“This is the first robust evidence of a snow leopard in Kashmir on a camera trap. Earlier, we used to have anecdotal evidence or somebody would say that they captured the animal on a handheld device,” said Munib Khanyari, Programme Manager of National Conservation Foundation (NCF), who is heading one of the teams J&K wildlife authorities have assigned to trace the animal.

Preferring solitary in icy mountains, the cat is rarely spotted and hardly photographed. Hence, little is known about it. Weighing up to 75 kg (165 lb), the snow leopard has a thick, soft grey coat with ringed black spots to help it camouflage itself among rocks. In 2012, two adult snow leopards were also caught on infrared cameras in the Kargil district, then part of J&K.

“We saw its pug marks in late October, so we checked the cameras, and its picture was captured in early October,” Khanyari said.

Last October, wildlife protection authorities in Jammu and Kashmir started a population census of snow leopards as part of the nationwide population assessment of the elusive species being carried out on the directions of the ministry of the environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC).

The J&K wildlife authorities formed different teams, including members from NGOs and Kashmir University, to conduct surveys across the 12,000 km potential area of snow leopard of J&K covering Gurez, Thajwas, Baltal-Zojila, Warwan, and Kishtwar landscapes.

Khanyari and his four-member team - Aashiq Dar, Aijaz Raina, Tanzin Thuktan, Rinchen Tobge, and Kesang Chunit - were given three landscapes - Gurez axis, Baltal-Thajwas axis and Wardwan axis.

Of the six states and union territories, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have completed the census, while the exercise is on in J&K, Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal.

The camera trapping exercise also revealed other important and rare species, such as Asiatic ibex, Brown Bear and Kashmir Musk Deer, besides information regarding other biodiversity components of such habitats, interactions and threats.

Get Latest India Newsalong with Latest Newsand Top Headlinesfrom India and around the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, December 09, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals