Mohan Lal Verma ‘
Shimla, Jan 22
Almost on the verge of compilation of PSL (Project Snow Leopard) in Himachal as many as 73 snow leopards have been counted by a joint assessment team in the state. Moreover Himachal become first State to complete assessment of PSL and its wild prey under a nation-wide project.
The assessment of snow leopard population in the state has been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) Bangalore following the protocol aligning with the SPAI (Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India) of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
It is the first scientifically robust estimate of snow leopards and its prey for the State. Since snow leopard is the state animal, the study assumes great significance for Himachal Pradesh. The state has an estimated population of up to 73 snow leopards.
The camera trap deployment over the mountainous terrains was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village and more than 70 frontline staff of HPFD were trained in this technique as part of the project. Snow leopards were detected at all the 10 sites (Bhaga, Chandra, Bharmour, Kullu, Miyar, Pin, Baspa, Tabo, Hangrang & Spiti) suggesting that snow leopards are found in the entire snow leopard habitat in Himachal Pradesh either as resident individuals of a population or as dispersing individuals navigating through these connecting habitats.
The PSL is spread in the five Himalayan states including HP, J&K, Uttranchal, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh about 1,28,757 sq km total project area.
The exercise revealed that snow leopard density ranged from 0.08 to 0.37 individuals per 100 sq.km. with the trans-Himalayan regions of Spiti, Pin valley and upper Kinnaur recording the highest densities, both of the predator and its prey, mainly ibex and blue sheep.
Local communities are the strongest allies
Another revelation from the study is that a bulk of snow leopard occurrence is outside protected areas, reiterating the fact that local communities are the strongest allies for conservation in snow leopard landscapes.
Timeline of Project Snow leopard
The NCF and wildlife wing collaborated in the effort and it took three years to complete the assessment, which will also serve as a robust baseline for the Wildlife wing for long term monitoring of the snow leopard landscape.
Importance of the project
The results provide a robust baseline for wildlife wing to set up a long term monitoring project to track the population of snow leopards and its wild prey species in the State.
This study covered the entire potential snow leopard habitat of Himachal Pradesh: an area of 26,112 sq.km., utilising a stratified sampling design. Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites to representatively sample all the strata i.e. high, low and unknown.
During the SPL some of the areas of Kullu and Lahaul Spiti where footprints were also found of this elusive wild animals was also extended.
State Head of Forest Force Dr Savita informed that 50 percent of 22 project areas spanned in Himacbal which was extended in the mid of project to 27,846 square km area.
In the state PSL (above 3000 m) include Lahaul, Spiti, Pangi, Kinnaur, Upper Chamba (especially Bharmour), Upper Kangra (Bara Bhangal), Upper Kullu (Mantalai, Pin Parvati, upper Great Himalayan NP, upper Manali), and Upper Simla (Rupi Bhabha, Dodra Kwar).
The project likely to be completed by Mar 31,2021. It is likely to make a number of revelations about the SL and its vast landscapes and prey in the North Western Himalayan ranges in the state.
Snow Leopards cub lands among livestock
During the PSL department rescued a snow leopard cub (six to eight month) on May 2, 2020 as it got trapped inside a livestock pan in a Giu village of Spiti valley.
The cub required immediate rescue as it astrayed mother and it was exhausted and thus rushed to wild animal rehabilitation centre from Spiti to Himalayan nature park Kufri.
After fully recovery the cub was again released on May 18 to the wild near the same location at Giu village where it was found trapped.
‘Before releasing the cub in the wild again we have ensured to track its mother by putting the surveillance camera for two days, informed wildlife officials. As she was located the astrayed cub was released near its mother to ensure their successful union again.