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Conservation issues and WWF-India’s interventions

Conservation Issues:

Poaching:
What comes as a major challenge for the protection of this species, is addressing poaching. Snow leopards are poached for their pelts, which have a huge market in Tibet. Their bones and other body parts are also in demand for use in traditional Asian medicines.

Retribution killings:
Snow leopards at times stray from their habitat to enter human territory to prey on domestic livestock. Herders in these areas live a precarious economic life and loss of even a single sheep, causes a real economic hardship. This has caused several cases of retaliatory killing of snow leopards.

Habitat and prey loss:
As humans continue to push further into the mountainous areas with their livestock, the snow leopards' habitat is getting boxed-in by increasing human intrusion. As humans push further into the mountainous areas with their livestock, the snow leopard's habitat is getting degraded and fragmented. Overgrazing has damaged the fragile grasslands, leaving less food for the wild sheep and goats that are the snow leopard's main prey.

Other challenges:
Much of its habitat is extremely difficult to access. Found at very high altitude, studying the species and its current status and distribution is an extremely arduous task.
 / ©: David Lawson/WWF-UK
Snow leopard with cub
© David Lawson/WWF-UK
 / ©:
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WWF-India's interventions:

Snow leopards are less studied than other large felids such as the tiger, lion and leopard in India. Its currently occupied range is poorly mapped. In India, its presence is reported from Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Studies have been conducted in some of the protected areas of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh but rest of the states such as Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh and the unprotected areas of its distribution range are yet to be explored.

Currently, WWF-India is conducting a base-line survey on snow leopards and associated species in Kargil and Drass areas of Jammu and Kashmir in close association with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the department of wildlife. Efforts are on to identify and conserve the unexplored areas for the snow leopard. During the course of this study, a snow leopard was photographed for the first time in the wild in Kargil district. In 2008 - 09, “Snow leopard conservation: An initiative”, a WWF-India initiated study was conducted in the states of Uttarakhand and some of the areas of Himachal Pradesh (HP). These areas were never previously explored for snow leopards at a landscape level. Here, base-line information such as its occurrence and distribution, snow leopard-human conflicts and the biotic pressure on its habitats was gathered.
 / ©: Aishwarya Maheshwari/WWF-India
The Snow Leopard photographed from Kargil District, India during WWF-India's survey in Jun 2009
© Aishwarya Maheshwari/WWF-India