In a first, snow leopard count to be done in Ladakh
All India tiger estimation framework is to be adopted for the process which is likely to begin from April.india Updated: Feb 12, 2018 11:50 IST
Jammu and Kashmir forest officials will begin an estimation of the number of snow leopards in Ladakh in April. This would be first ever estimation of the high altitude big cat in the country.
The estimation, following protocols of All India Tiger Estimation, will be done in Hemis National Park and Kargil area of Ladakh. It will be done by the state forest department in association with the ministry of environment, forest and climate (MoEFC), with technical support from Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
Till date, the population of the species has only been estimated in the absence of a proper census.
As per WII, there are about 750 snow leopards in potential states of J-K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.
Uttarakhand conducted a survey in 2015 in the trans Himalayan region and could get 39 shreds of evidence of the species. Still, no actual figures of the population of the spotted cat could be established.
“It is for the first time that snow leopard estimation would be done anywhere in the country. We will work on the model of All India Tiger Estimation and are hopeful to start the process by April,” Pankaj Raina, wildlife warden Hemis said.
According to the plan, the intensive study area will cover around 80,808 sqkm area comprising the trans Himalayan region of Ladakh, which includes western Tibetan Himalayas, Zansar (south of the Indus) and Nubra region.
The snow leopard habitat would be divided into 100 sqkm grids which would be studied based on signs, scat analysis, prey base and others. Camera traps would be installed in 5 sqkm area for creating a database of the species. The framework for all the steps is already laid down by National Tiger Conservation Authority for tiger estimation.
In addition, the plan is to radio collar at least 10-12 snow leopards for conservation and further monitoring. Radio collaring in Ladakh was done once in 1890-91 by scientist Raghu Chandawat who collared one snow leopard for 72 days.
“After we are done with the estimation, we would want to continuously study the habitat of the species for which we plan to do radio collaring,” Raina added.
The Centre launched Project Snow Leopard for conservation of the snow leopard species and its habitat in 2009 but no estimation could be conducted owing to the severity of the habitat.
Under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project Securing Livelihoods, Conservation, Sustainable Use and Restoration of High Range Himalayan Ecosystem, habitat conservation and estimation are planned.
YV Jhala, senior scientist at WII who is leading the project said, “We aim at developing a methodology to estimate snow leopards in the country through this project like we did for tigers.”