A recent study by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) on snow leopard (Panthera uncia) has thrown up interesting insights on the elusive mountain cat and its prey species.
What does the study say?
- According to the study carried out in Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh, the snow leopard detection probability was high if the site was used by its prey species — Siberian ibex and blue sheep. Whereas, in the case of the prey species, the probability of detection was low when the predator was present and detected.
- Snow leopards use rugged mountainous areas or non-forested areas covering an altitude between 3,200 metres to 5,200 metres.
- Habitat covariates such as barren area, grassland, aspect, slope and distance to water were important drivers of habitat use for the snow leopard as well as its prey species.
- Classified as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red list and listed in Schedule-I species of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, snow leopards are elusive mountain cats.
About Snow Leopards –
- They are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
- They inhabit alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m (9,800 to 14,800 ft). In the northern range countries, they also occur at lower elevations.
- Their habitat extends through twelve countries – Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. China contains as much as 60% of all snow leopard habitat areas.
- In India, their geographical range encompasses a large part of the western Himalayas including the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas.
- The snow leopard, like all big cats, is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which makes trading of animal body parts (i.e., fur, bones and meat) illegal in signatory countries. It is also protected by several national laws in its range countries.