Snow leopard survey

News Excerpt:

According to a groundbreaking four-year study, the results of which were recently released, India has an estimated population of 718 snow leopards in the wild.

About Leopard Survey:

  • The Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI) began in 2019 and involves the World Wide Fund for Nature-India and the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysuru, along with the WII.
  • The maximum number of cats were estimated to be in Ladakh (477), followed by Uttarakhand (124), Himachal Pradesh (51), Arunachal Pradesh (36), Sikkim (21), and Jammu and Kashmir (9).
  • The current estimate puts the number of Indian snow leopards from 10-15% of the global population.
  • The exercise involved setting up cameras, or ‘camera traps,’ in 1,971 locations and surveying 13,450 km worth of trails which teams surveyed for recording signs of snow leopards such as scat, hair and other body markers.
    • Much like the approach used in surveys to estimate tiger numbers, States conducted the surveys and the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India, an autonomous body of the Union Environment Ministry., 
    • They used software and statistical methods to estimate the number of individual cats that are present but not caught on camera and combined them with those caught on camera.
  • According to the Environment Ministry, scientific surveys began in the 1980s to estimate their numbers though the area over which the animal ranged was undefined due to a lack of extensive nationwide assessments.
    • Previous assessments have estimated the animal’s population at 400-700. Before 2016, approximately one-third of the range (around ca. 100,347 km2) received “minimal research attention.”
    • Recent status surveys have significantly increased understanding, providing preliminary information for 80% of the range (about 79,745 km2), compared to 56% in 2016.

About Snow Leopard 

  • The snow leopard is classified as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and faces threats such from free ranging dogs, human wildlife conflicts, and poaching.
  • It is defined as Schedule-I species of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Habitat: mountainous landscape of central Asia covering Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim.

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