Tribune News Service
Shimla, January 21
Himachal Pradesh has become the first state in the country to complete population estimation of snow leopard and its wild prey, with the number of the endangered animal in the state being 73.
Forest Minister Rakesh Pathania said the assessment of snow leopard population has been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), Bangalore, following the protocol aligning with the Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI) protocols 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.
Pathania, while congratulating the wildlife wing for this achievement, said that such long-term studies could prove beneficial 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.
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.
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.
Snow leopards were detected in the entire snow leopard habitat of the state, including Bhaga, Chandra, Bharmour, Kullu, Miyar, Pin, Baspa, Tabo, Hangrang and Spiti, suggesting that the animal is found either as resident individuals of a population or as dispersing individuals navigating through these connecting habitats.
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, which will also serve as a robust baseline for the wildlife wing for long-term monitoring of the snow leopard landscape.
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