Snow leopard population on the rise in Himachal: Experts
The population of snow leopard, also known as the ghost of Himalayas, is on the rise, said Savita, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Himachal Pradesh. The wildlife experts peg the population of the snow leopard to be more than hundred.
The wildlife wing of the forest department along with Nature Conservation Foundation of India is conducting a survey to assess the population of snow leopards in half of its habitat across Himachal. They conducted the survey in seven places, including Miyar, Thandi, Chandra and Bagha and upper Spiti region In Lahaul and Spiti district.
“So far the results are very encouraging as the survey conducted in the past sixth months in seven sights has detected 49 leopards. Survey in rest of the state inhabiting snow leopard will be completed shortly. We are certain the figure will go past 100 snow leopards in Himachal,” said Savita.
Snow leopard is the state animal of Himachal Pradseh. In Himachal, snow leopards habitat range spans from kibber wildlife sanctuary in Lahaul Spiti to Pangi in Chamba district. Snow leopards are usually found at the altitudes between 9,800 to 17,000 feet in the high and rugged terrains.
The state animal is also found Kugti wildlife sanctuary in Chamba. Besides, it also inhabits the upper regions of Kinnaur and the great Himalayan National Park. Team of researchers had found a new habitat for snow leopard in Lippa Asrang in Kinnaur district.
The exact number of snow leopards, which prefer to inhabit steep cliff areas, rocky outcrops and ravines, have never been determined in the state due to its shy nature. It mainly feeds on blue sheeps, also known as bharals. However, the burgeoning population of stray dogs in Kaza close to Kibber, the main habitat of snow leopards, had emerged as threat for the feline. Blue sheeps are also preferred prey of dogs and source of livelihood for locals.
In 2006, the forest department had initiated a project to conserve habitat of snow leopards in Spiti valley. The wildlife wing of the forest department is running a snow leopard project in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore. The forest department had also set up research programme to analyse population of snow leopards.
As many as 30 youth in Spiti valley are trained at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering in Manali and they earn from ₹100 to 1500 for helping tourists and mountaineers sight snow leopards in high altitude areas.