In a rare sight, four snow leopards captured on camera in Uttarakhand’s Nanda Devi National Park
In a rare sight, four snow leopards including a pair have been caught on camera trap in Uttarakhand’s Nanda Devi National Park.
DK Singh, director of Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve where Nanda Devi National Park is located said these sightings were caught in a camera trap from January to March and came to light when recently forest officials checked it.
“We set up camera traps in areas where we think there is a maximum probability of snow leopard movement. Then after two to three months, we check these camera traps. Around 10 days ago, we checked a camera trap that we had set up in Malari area of Nanda Devi National Park. To our surprise, it had recorded four sightings from January to March and also caught a of snow leopard pair, which is very rare. We are very elated with these sightings”, he said.
Parag Madhukar Dhakate, chief conservator of forests (CCF) western circle Kumaon said these rare sightings of these snow leopards were caught by the camera trap set up by the state forest department at an altitude of 3100 metres (10170 ft). It recorded the ‘Crepuscular’ behaviour of these elusive leopards.
“Crepuscular means snow leopards are most active during dawn, dusk and night, which also helps them hunt their most preferred prey, the Blue Sheep, which uses the same habitat at night. Snow leopards are highly agile, adaptable and solitary big cats and prefer steep rocky broken terrain close to natural vegetation. For travelling and resting, they use cliffs and major ridgelines. That is where we generally set up camera traps”, said Dhakate.
Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has made an estimate of snow leopards based on an extrapolation from habitat quality and snow leopard density. According to S Sathyakumar, senior scientist at WII, India likely has around 516 snow leopards, with the current estimated distribution of 86 in Uttarakhand, 90 in Himachal Pradesh, 285 in Jammu and Kashmir, 13 in Sikkim, and 42 in Arunachal Pradesh.
Snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is facing threats to its existence due to poaching and habitat destruction. It inhabits the Himalayas at elevations ranging from 3,000 to 4,500 metres. It is a Schedule I animal under the Wildlife Protection Act of India and is listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Earlier this year, a national protocol for snow leopard population assessment was undertaken by Dehradun based WII along with Karnataka-based Nature Conservation Foundation. The project is on the lines of the global project named ‘Population Assessment of World’s Snow leopards (PAWS)’ carried out by 12 countries where the highly rare animal is found.