Wildlife officials in Himachal Pradesh on Friday claimed that they have "successfully" reintroduced the six-month snow leopard in the wild in the Spiti Valley, some 350 km from Shimla, after 16 days of captivity.
However, wildlife lovers and experts were apprehensive about the survival of the cub in nature, after keeping him in human captivity so long.
The snow leopard cub that got trapped in a corral of Giu village of Kaza subdivision was captured on May 2, a media statement by Chief Wildlife Warden Savita said.
It was found to be injured and dehydrated and was brought to the nearest wildlife quarantine centre of the Himalayan Nature Park in Kufri for necessary treatment.
During its quarantine, care was taken to avoid any type of human imprinting on the cub.
Concern over chances of survival
Doubting the success of its reintroduction into the wild, Rajeshwar Negi, national convener of Nature Watch India, said the cub's chances of survival in the wild or getting reunited with its mother were remote.
"Without its mother, the cub wouldn't be able to learn the survival skills like chasing the prey and hunting. In this case, the cub develops the habit of commercially prepared food like chicken during captivity," Negi told IANS.
"Chances of its survival through hunting are almost bleak now. Its mother,too, won't accept the cub after such a long gap," Shimla-based Negi, who is monitoring developments relating to the cub since its capture, said.
Rather than re-introducing it in its alpine habitat soon after trapping it by "mistake", wildlife officials transported this endangered species for veterinary check-up to the nature park in Kufri, some 350 km from the spot. The decision has angered wildlife activists.
On its reintroduction, the wildlife wing statement said, a team had transported the animal to the location in the vicinity of its capture on May 16-17.
Meanwhile, the team had kept close tabs on the movement of a female snow leopard (presumed to be the mother of the cub) in the area. A strong liaisioning between the two teams was developed and a strategy was formulated to release this cub in its habitat itself near to the place from where it was captured, said the statement.
The cub was kept at this location for a short period and the team set up a camp at a short distance from the place. Entire area was covered through camera-trap surveillance and the animal was finally released on the evening of May 18 in accordance with guidelines.
Till the morning of May 21, no report of cub straying into human habitation has been received and it is presumed that the cub had retreated deep into its wild habitat, added the statement. — IANS
Know this endangered species
- Spotted leopards live in the mountains across a vast range of Asia. Himalayas, Tibetan plateau, southern Siberian mountains are some of the areas where snow leopards are spotted generally.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies snow leopards as vulnerable to extinction. Human settlements in higher ranges have brought them in conflict with shepherds and herders. The species has lost at least 20 per cent of their population in two decades as a result.
- Snow leopards have powerful legs and can leap as far as 50 feet.
- They can survive in freezing temperatures due to their thick cover of hair and their fur-covered feet are like natural snowshoes.
- Snow leopards prey upon the blue sheep (bharal) of Tibet and the Himalayas apart from some smaller animals in the mountains.
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