New habitats of elusive snow leopards found in Himachal
Researchers have discovered snow leopards inhabiting along Sutlej river in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district, suggesting an increase in the population of the species.
The elusive leopards were captured in footages from the remote areas of Lippa Asrang Wildlife Sanctuary for the first time, signifying that there is plenty of prey for the wild cats.
The sanctuary is located at a height of around 4,000 metres while snow leopards are usually found between 9,800 and 17,000 feet in high and rugged terrain.
A team of researchers from the state forest department had installed cameras at eight sites in the sanctuary after inputs from shepherds and villagers.
The population of snow leopard is estimated at 30 in the state.
Sushil Kapta, conservator, south zone wildlife wing, said the discovery puts spotlight on ascertaining newer areas of habitation by the big cats.
“It was only last year that the snow leopard’s count improved from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ in terms of conservation status,” he added.
In the state, the habitat of snow leopards range from Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary in Lahaul Spiti to Pangi in Chamba district. They have also been spotted in Great Himalayan National park, Kullu.
Another camera captured two brown bears at the altitude of about 3,200metres, said divisional forest officerKunal Angrish.
Wildlife conservationists attribute the new habitat to an increase in prey base of snow leopards that primarily hunt wild sheep and goats.
Blue sheep known as ‘bharals’ comprise the main prey base for them.
Wildlife wing of the forest department has been running a snow leopard project in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, to conserve snow leopards in the valley.
It now intends to undertake a survey in high altitude areas to access the population of the animal in the state.