Rs130-cr project to save snow leopards

Funds to be spent in over 6 yrs in Ladakh, HP, Uttarakhand, Sikkim

Pratibha Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, September 19

With an appreciable increase in the population of highly endangered snow leopard in the Himalayan region, efforts will be stepped up to provide the majestic animal, secure and congenial habitats with the help of a Rs 130 crore “Secure Himalayas” project across Ladakh, Himachal, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.

Forest Minister Govind Thakur today said efforts would be made to conserve snow leopard and its habitat while ensuring sustainable livelihoods for communities inhabiting harsh geographical areas.

“These eco-systems are threatened due to unplanned development, unsustainable land use practices and growing man-animal conflict. This necessitates the need to conserve the habitats of the snow leopard, which will automatically take care of the rich bio-diversity and unique ecosystem,” he remarked.

It is estimated that the number of snow leopards in India is anywhere between 400 and 500, while in Himachal its number is between 85 and 100. “A sum of Rs 130 crore will be spent over a span of six years under Secure Himalayas project being implemented by Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change with the support of Global Environment Facility in the select areas in Ladakh, HP, Uttrakhand and Sikkim,” revealed Ram Subhag Singh, Additional Chief Secretary, Forest.

He said efforts would be made to get adequate funding through multinational corporate houses as many of them provide funds for such initiatives under their corporate social responsibility.

The snow leopard is one of the rarest members of the cat family and a top predator of the Himalayas. “About 500 snow leopards survive at very low densities across 75,000 sq km of potential habitat in India,” said Dr Savita, Principal Chief Conservator, Wildlife. Their number is on the rise but more efforts need to be made to conserve them.

The estimated population of snow leopards in Himachal is over 85. The high altitude belts where they are found include Upper Kinnaur, Pin Valley, Tabo, Tharot-Miyar, Bhaga, Chandra and Upper Spiti and some other areas in Chamba, Kinnaur and Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) in Kullu.

The state wildlife wing of the Forest Department is executing “Snow Leopard Project” in association with Mysore-based Nature Conservation Foundation for conservation of the animal found at great heights in the entire Himalayan region. More than 30 cameras have been installed at various locations on the left bank of Spiti river to be able to arrive at a rough estimate of their population.

The most frequent sighting of snow leopards has been in Kibber Plateau, slopes between Kee, Gete and Tashigang, Shilla Nalla area, plateau around Langza, Hikkim, Komic and slopes around Demul, Salung, Rama and Lalung. Past studies in 2016, though not very scientific had put the number of snow leopards in Himachal at 67, which was far higher than the earlier figure of less than 20.

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