Snow Leopard no longer ‘endangered,’ Christmas Island Pipistrelle is gone: IUCN

The Red list of the IUCN that is an inventory of all species on the planet that face some level of threats updated the list on Thursday.

environment Updated: Sep 15, 2017 10:50 IST
Snow Leopard,Christmas Island Pipistrelle,IUCN
The Christmas Island Pipistrelle, a bat species endemic to Australia is now officially extinct, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).(Courtesy: IUCN)

The International Union of Concerned Scientists (IUCN) downlisted the Snow Leopard from its list of endangered species.

With the update to the widely cited ‘Red List’ on Thursday the list now includes 87,967 species of which 25,062 are threatened with extinction. The cheerfully named Christmas Island Pipistrelle, a bat species that is found only in Australia’s Christmas Island is now officially extinct.  Only one individual of the species remained in 2009 and it was never found again. One of the reasons for its disappearance was the introduction of an invasive species, the Yellow Crazy Ant into the bat’s habitat.

In India, snow leopards are found in the northern stretches in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, and is a Schedule I species, enjoying the same protections as the tiger. The IUCN proposal was met with concern in India which hosts a population of about 400-700 with conservationists being divided about the implications of the move.

Removal of the species from the red list indicates that their populations are rebounding, which is a positive sign. But some conservationists worry that downlisting the species from ‘endangered’ to only ‘vulnerable’ would signal that the species does not require the same amount of attention and resources as before.

“The proposed downlisting, based on inadequate information is not a good idea,” Rishi Kumar Sharma, who heads the snow leopard at WWF-India, told the HT. “The IUCN does have a precautionary principle which is applicable in specific cases like this where a decision based on poor information may put a species at risk and therefore it is considered prudent to keep a species in a high-risk category instead of down-listing it.”

Some also believe that the rationale for removing the species is based on flawed data.

“A group of scientists feels that snow leopards should no longer be classified as Endangered. They are suggesting that there are more snow leopards than previously believed, and that conservation efforts being made have reduced its rate of decline,” Charudutt Mishra,a director at the Snow Leopard Trust. “However, there is little scientific evidence for these claims.”

Snow Leopards are very elusive species that are found at elevations of 3000-5000 metres which makes population estimations difficult.

There are also concerns that the threats to snow leopard populations persist. These include poaching, retaliatory killing by farmers, declining prey species, shrinking habitats, and climate change.

In 2009, India launched Project Snow Leopard. Snow Leopard Project for Rs 5.15 Crores has been accepted by the MoEF, GOI commencing from 2010-11 onwards for a period of four years. However, interest in the project faded pretty quickly.

The UNDP recently partnered with the environment ministry to launch the SECURE (Securing Livelihoods, Conservation, Sustainable Use and Restoration of High Range Himalayan Ecosystem) with an outlay of USD 12 million (nearly Rs 77 crore). Four Indian states will receive funds under the program to conserve snow leopard habitats and for protection of the species.

India’s project snow leopard was a failure because it was never fully implemented on the ground. The IUCN move is not likely to change the status of the snow leopard in India. The government has also made a commitment towards snow leopard conservation at the recently held Bishkek forum, where 12 Snow Leopard range countries set the goal of securing 20 snow leopard landscapes by 2020.

First Published: Sep 15, 2017 10:50 IST