Forest officials await first-ever snow leopard survey report

Itanagar: The forest officers of Arunachal Pradesh eagerly await the report of the first snow leopard count in the state, due out in October this year.

The snow leopard assessment is being conducted for the first time in the northeastern state with technical support from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), India, a senior officer said.

“Assessment for the elusive species’ presence, which began in June last year, was carried out in 11 forest divisions located in high altitude and snowfall areas,” the assistant curator said. of the forest (wildlife) Millo Tassar.

WWF-India is analyzing the data from the survey, which has already been completed and the report is expected to be released on October 23 this year, to mark the International Snow Leopard Day.

“We are all eagerly awaiting the report,” he said.

“More than 200 people involving state forest department officials and field staff in addition to WWF-India experts participated in the estimation exercise which lasted five months,” the senior official said. forests.

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The golden-eyed animal with thick fur, padded legs and a long tail lives in the mountainous regions of Central and South Asia.

In India, the geographic range of wild cat species covers much of the western Himalayas, including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and India. Arunachal Pradesh in the Eastern Himalayas.

The last three states are part of the Eastern Himalayas, a global priority region of WWF and the Living Himalayas Network Initiative.

Snow leopards prefer steep, rugged terrain with rocky outcrops and ravines. This type of habitat provides good cover and an unobstructed view to help them sneak up on their prey.

“We are confident that a good number of big cat species are present in the state,” Tassar said.

Last year, the state forest department shared photographs of snow leopards captured in camera traps in high-altitude areas of the state.

The camera traps were set as part of the snow leopard population assessment.

“Photographic evidence of the presence of snow leopards was captured in the Shi-Yomi district of the state last year,” the DCF said.

A WWF survey of snow leopards in 2017 provided photos of the elusive species in the Thembang area of ​​West Kameng district in Arunachal Pradesh.

While locals were aware of the presence of snow leopards in Thembang, scientists were only able to obtain photographs in 2017.

On the International Snow Leopard Day, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (MoEFCC) launched the first national protocol on snow leopard population assessment in India (SPAI) in 2019.

The snow leopard is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN World Conservation Union Red List of Threatened Species and on Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.

The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) faces threats to its existence due to poaching and dwindling habitats, officials said.

The endangered predator inhabits the Himalayas at altitudes ranging from 3,000 to 4,500 meters.

India has launched two conservation efforts including the Snow Leopard Project (PSL) which promotes an inclusive and participatory approach to conservation involving local communities.

The other conservation effort is SECURE Himalaya, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

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