Spiti puts brakes on car rallies in snow leopard habitat
Given the threat it may cause to wildlife, particularly the state animal, snow leopard, the Lahaul-Spiti district administration has banned car rallies in the Kibber wildlife sanctuary area of Spiti valley.
A notification to this effect has been issued by additional district magistrate Gian Sagar Negi. “It has come to our notice that travel agencies organise car rallies, especially in winter, through the snow leopard landscape of Kibber wildlife sanctuary in the Spiti valley. In this season, wild animals such as the snow leopard, ibex, Himalayan serow, blue sheep and other high-altitude species come down to lower elevation due to heavy snowfall in the higher reaches,” he said.
February and March are also the mating season of the snow leopard. Traffic through these landscapes not only disturbs the natural habitat of these animals but also affects the procreation of the snow leopard, declared a vulnerable species by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Negi said both the state and central governments have initiated wildlife conservation projects. Snow leopard sighting is also the main attraction of winter tourism, a substantial source of income for Spiti valley residents.
He said since serving notices on all stakeholders is not practical, it was necessary to proceed ex-parte under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and impose the ban.
“In the larger interest of conservation of the vulnerable species of wildlife, no car rally will be allowed to pass through the snow leopard landscape of Kibber wildlife sanctuary from the road through Lidang, Demul, Komic, Hikkim to Langcha and from Rangrik bridge to Chicham via Kee-Kibber village,” he said.
The snow leopard’s habitat ranges from the Kibber wildlife sanctuary in Lahaul and Spiti to Pangi in Chamba district. The cats are usually found in rugged terrain at altitudes between 9,800 feet and 17,000 feet.
Last month, the forest department released a survey report that estimated the population of 73 snow leopards in the state. The survey was conducted by the wildlife wing of the forest department and the Nature Conservation Foundation, Bangalore. The population of the animals has gradually increased in the valley since the wildlife wing initiated the Snow Leopard Conservation Project and began monitoring the animals in 2006.
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