The first-ever recording of the snow leopard from the Baltal-Zojila region has renewed the hope for the elusive predator in the higher altitudes of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

 

What is it?

  • Snow leopard surveys have often focused in neighbouring areas of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The survey was expanded to the Baltal-Zojila region of Kashmir
  • Camera trapping exercises also raised hopes for other important and rare species such as the Asiatic ibex, brown bear and Kashmir musk deer in the upper reaches of the northernmost part of India.
  • Snow Leopard population estimation is part of the Snow Leopard Population Assessment of India (SPAI).
  • The Department of Wildlife Protection has been conducting surveys with partner NGOs to understand presence and abundance of snow leopards under the SPAI project funded by the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change.
  • The Snow Leopard Population Assessment of India (SPAI) has been concluded so far in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The estimated population of the great cat is 50 and 100 in these two States respectively.

 

About the ‘Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI)’

  • It was launched on International Snow Leopard Day on 23rd October 2019.
  • It has evolved from international effort to develop a global protocol for PAWS under the aegis of GSELP.
  • Objective – To help the snow leopard double its population.
  • Under SPAI, a two-step process is undertaken to estimate the snow leopard population.
    • First step – An occupation-based assessment of snow leopard distribution, which involves identifying the area where the study will be conducted based on conducting preliminary surveys and using interview or sign-based methods.
    • Second step – Population sampling for regional density estimation by carrying out a thorough review of already sampled areas.
  • Online tools including a data-sharing portal, training app for identifying individual leopards through photographs and threat mapping tool would be utilised.

 

About the ‘Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP)’

  • The GSLEP is a world first joint initiative that aims to conserve the endangered snow leopard within the broader context of also conserving valuable high mountain ecosystems.
  • It unites all 12 range country governments, nongovernmental and inter-governmental organisations, local communities, and the private sector around this aim.