Tribune News Service
Shimla, January 22
Himachal Pradesh has become the first state in the country to complete population estimation of snow leopard and its wild prey. The number of the endangered animal in the state is 73.
Forest Minister Rakesh Pathania said the assessment of snow leopard population had been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), Bangalore, following the protocol aligning with the SPAI (Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India) protocols of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests .
It is the first scientifically robust estimate of snow leopards and its prey for the state. Snow leopard is the state animal. The study covered the entire potential snow leopard habitat: an area of 26,112 sq km utilising a stratified sampling design. Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites.
Pathania, while congratulating the wildlife wing for this achievement, said that such long-term studies could prove very useful in detecting the effects of conservation at the ground level and Himachal Pradesh could also be an example for other states.
He said 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.
The camera trap deployment over the mountainous terrain was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village and more than 70 frontline staff of the HPFD were trained in this technique as part of the project.
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. The NCF and wildlife wing collaborated in the effort and it took three years to complete the assessment.
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