India’s first snow leopard conservation centre to come up in Uttarakhand
Taking another step towards conservation of elusive snow leopards, India’s first Snow Leopard Conservation Centre will be opened in Uttarkashi forest division in Uttarakhand, officials informed.
Chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat along with state forest minister and officials from the state forest department took a meeting in this regard on Saturday.
The conservation centre will be built by the Uttarakhand forest department along United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as part of its six-year long project, SECURE Himalayas. The project aims at securing livelihoods, conservation, sustainable use and restoration of high range Himalayan ecosystems. The project also looks into conversation of snow leopards and other endangered species and their habitats, found in Himalayas. This project was started in 2017.
Chief minister Rawat said that special efforts should be made to conserve and increase the number of snow leopards in the state.
“Areas where snow leopards have been seen in the last few years, such areas should be identified by the forest department in collaboration with local people and military forces. Snow leopards should be estimated in these areas by making grids. The conservation of snow leopards and other wildlife in the area will give a boost to winter tourism in the state,” said Rawat.
He said that there are many species of wildlife in the hilly regions of Uttarakhand, which become the centre of attraction for tourists.
The chief minister was apprised by officials that snow leopards have been frequently sighted in in Uttarkashi and Pithoragarh districts but an estimation has not been conducted so far. There are currently 86 snow leopards in Uttarakhand based on various researches.
JS Suhag, chief wildlife warden of Uttarakhand said that the conservation centre will be built at a place named Lanka, near Bhaironghati bridge in Uttarkashi district.
“The snow leopard conservation centre aims to protect the animal with the help local community and also give employment to locals from nearby villages through tourism. Today (Saturday) a presentation was made in front of the chief minister where the design of the conservation centre and other details were discussed,” said the chief wildlife warden.
Rajiv Bhartari, chairman of Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board who was also a part of the meeting said that the aim of the conservation centre is to generate awareness amongst people about the elusive big cat.
“Architect Anne Feenstra shared details of how the snow leopard conservation centre will be; it will have three blocks, a learning block, a café block and a forest department facility. Given that the centre will be made at such a height, the structure is very important so that it withstands the extreme snowfall and the heat level is maintained in a sustainable manner,” said Bhartari.
He added that the centre through the café block and souvenir shops aims to give employment to locals from five villages in that area.
The snow leopard is a Schedule I animal under Wildlife Protection Act of India and is listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The animal faces many threats to its existence due to poaching and habitat destruction. It inhabits the Himalayas at elevations ranging from 3,000 to 4,500 metres.