Finding brings hope as the great cat reacts quickly to habitat disturbances
GN Bureau | November 5, 2022
Snow leopard, the elusive great cat, has finally been spotted in Kashmir, bringing cheers to the conservation community.
Researchers from Nature Conservation Foundation have recorded images of snow leopard in the upper Baltal-Zojila region, says Munib Khanyari, program manager, NCF, in a press brief issued Saturday.
Snow leopard surveys usually focus on the neighbouring areas of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, not Kashmir. However, the department of wildlife protection of Jammu and Kashmir has been conducting surveys with partner NGOs, to understand presence and abundance of snow leopards under the Snow Leopard Population Assessment of India (SPAI) project funded by the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change. NCF is a partner in the project.
This iconic and culturally treasured great cat is a good indicator species as it quickly reacts to habitat disturbances and its successful conservation requires sustainable long-term systemic solutions to the threats impacting the quality of habitats.
This finding brings renewed hope to Kashmir and its high-altitude regions, as the presence of the snow leopard can be used as a conservation flagship to address high-mountain development issues for people and the environment. In coming days more such findings from the ongoing surveys are expected from these landscapes.
The camera trapping exercise also revealed other important and rare species such as Asiatic ibex, Brown Bear and Kashmir Musk Deer, besides Incredible information regarding other biodiversity components of such habitats, interactions and threats will be documented in the shape of a final report.
Various teams have been conducting surveys across an area of nearly 12,000 sq km in Jammu and Kashmir for a few years now covering Gurez, Thajwas, Baltal-Zojila, Warwan, and Kishtwar landscapes. There is extremely limited evidence of snow leopard occurrence across the UT of Jammu and Kashmir.
Apart from Khanyari, the team involved in the camera trapping included Aashiq Dar (Tangmarg- Baramula), Aijaz Raina (Sarbal, near Sonamarg), Tanzin Thuktan (Kibber, Himachal Pradesh), Rinchen Tobge (Kibber, Himachal Pradesh) and Kesang Chunit (Kibber, Himachal Pradesh). They were supported extensively by the staff of the Department of Wildlife Protection and the research associates under the guidance and support from Suresh Kumar Gupta, IFS, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife)/chief wildlife warden, and Rashid Y Naqash, regional wildlife warden – Kashmir.
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