Elusive Snow leopard documented in Kargil, India


Aishwaraya Maheshwari is a field researcher of WWF-India who is documenting high altitude wildlife in Himalayas on the Indian side, since 2007. His current project is 'Study and Distribution of Snow Leopard, its co-predators and their prey in Kargil and Drass, Jammu and Kashmir, India.' A month into the field he has photo documented Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia), which few have done earlier in India’s Kargil District.
© Aishwarya Maheshwari/WWF-India
‘We saw this Snow Leopard for nearly seven minutes’
© Aishwarya Maheshwari/WWF-India

About Snow Leopard:

The strikingly beautiful Snow leopard - the big cat of the Himalaya Mountains, is one of the world’s most elusive felines. It has a 12-country home range and in India it is found in higher reaches of the snow-capped Himalayas, above the tree line, in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The terrain where it dwells is hostile to humans. It is rarely spotted and hardly photographed. Hence, little is known about it. The species’ actual status and its currently occupied range are poorly mapped. The Snow Leopard is top predator of this region. Though it is not a physical threat to humans, it is still persecuted as it sometimes preys on their livestock. It is also illegally killed for its pelt. 
© Klein & Hubert/WWF
Click on the image to see photo gallery on Snow Leopards.
© Klein & Hubert/WWF

About WWF-India’s efforts to conserve Snow Leopards:

In 2008, WWF-India undertook a survey to collect baseline data to know the status and distribution of Snow Leopard in the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Aishwarya Maheshwari, spent months in the Himalayas, trying to spot the star cat.

But after climbing mountains and living through snow storms, he could see none. However, the occasional signs were there - pug-marks, kills, scats, scrapes (a mark with hind paw consisting of an oblong depression with a pile of earth at one end) and urine spray and claw marking. During that survey, only twice did Aishwarya see its pugmarks. Also, he came across its scats only at 10 different locations. The current survey in Kargil District is unique as only a handful of formal wildlife studies have been carried out there, particularly on Snow Leopard.


WWF-India acknowledges the support provided by the Department of Wildlife Protection, Jammu and Kashmir. Without their permission and cooperation, this study could not have been possible. WWF-India thanks the Indian Army for its support. WWF-India also acknowledges Roffurd Small Grants, U.K., and WWF- Sweden for their initial financial assistance to conduct this survey.
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