The Snow leopard’s thick grey fur speckled with dark rosettes and spots is perfect camouflage in the rocky terrain they live in – earning them their epithet ‘the ghost of the mountains’. As mysterious and elusive as they are, they are also crepuscular in nature- which means they’re very active during the hours of dusk to dawn.
Near the snow-laden villages of Leh and Kargil, during the wee hours of twilight, the snow leopard comes to hunt. In addition to their natural prey such as the blue sheep, argali, and ibex, they hunt on livestock, which is a means of sustenance for locals.
Their primary prey – blue sheep, argali and ibex – now mostly reside as cattle with the village locals.
Due to the loss and fragmentation of snow leopards’ habitats in recent years, these big cats find themselves in the animal pens killing the locals’ cattle for food. This makes the villagers feel torn away from their livelihood and sustenance, further leading to the snow leopards being a casualty to retaliation from the locals.
With just about less than 500 snow leopards left in the wild in India, we have been making efforts in trying to resolve this human-snow leopard conflict. One such conservation intervention that has worked is the predator-proof corrals. A corral is an enclosed protected gathering of cattle, usually secured by strong steel mesh nets and wooden logs. These corral pens prohibit snow leopards from entering the pens during the night, protecting the cattle and the locals.
These corral pens are important in the conservation of snow leopards as it protects them from venturing too close to the villages.
WWF India has worked with the local communities in Leh and Kargil to deploy these predator-free corral pens. Between 2015-2019, 100 corral pens have been set up across 21 villages of the Leh and Kargil districts. This has brought down the threat and cases of human-snow leopard conflict and intrusion.