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Findings of survey of snow leopard in parts of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh

The snow leopard is an iconic species of the Greater and Trans-Himalayas. Although its presence is reported from Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, gaps still exist in information on its status, distribution and abundance. WWF-India conducted field surveys in 2008 – 2009 in parts of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, with support from the respective state forest departments. Among the indirect evidences, scats were also collected. To confirm if the scats were of snow leopard, DNA analysis of these was done by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun. Some of the scats collected from Uttarakhand were actually found to be that of Snow Leopard. When DNA analysis of the scats collected from Himachal Pradesh was done, it was found that these were not of snow leopard. But this does not prove the absence of snow leopards from the surveyed parts of Himachal Pradesh. Due to the lack of time and harsh weather conditions, only a small area of Himachal Pradesh was surveyed.

Information collected on snow leopard - human conflict revealed that livestock depredation is the only component of conflict. Thirty six percent of the total diet of the snow leopard comprised of domestic animals like mule, goat and sheep while natural prey like blue sheep and rodents like marmots made up the remaining.

Based on detailed analysis of scope (geographic extent), severity and irreversibility of threats, it is found that developmental activities pose a medium level threat while grazing, tourism and human-snow leopard conflicts pose low to medium levels of threats.

It was observed that the remote areas of the region suffer from inadequate field staff as well as check posts. Most of the Protected Areas surveyed also lack management plans. WWF-India, therefore, recommends well developed management plans, infrastructure and capacity building for field staff of PAs in both the states. To minimise the threats from developmental activities and conflicts in the high altitude areas it is recommended that well planned development and livestock management is implemented with participation of the local community.

The study recommends Gangotri National Park, Askot Wildlife Sanctuary and Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve be seen as potential habitats for snow leopard under ‘Project Snow Leopard’ being implemented by Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India.
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