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Snow Leapord

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    29th Apr, 2020

In the latest sighting of rare species, a pair of snow leopards has been sighted in Nanda Devi National Park in Uttarakhand.

Context

In the latest sighting of rare species, a pair of snow leopards has been sighted in Nanda Devi National Park in Uttarakhand.

About

  • Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are considered medium-sized cats, standing about 24 inches at the shoulder and weighing around 30-55kg.
  • Status: The snow leopard is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN-World Conservation Union’s Red List of the Threatened Species.
    • In addition, 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.
  • Habitat: Snow leopards can be foundthroughout high mountain ranges, including the Himalayas and the southern Siberian mountains in Russia. They can also be found in the Tibetan Plateau and across a range that stretches from China to the mountains of Central Asia.

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. 

Threats to Leopard:

  • Poaching: Poaching is the biggest threat for snow leopards that happens in the dark. Between 2008and 2016 alone, one snow leopard has reportedly been killed and traded every day - 220 to 450 cats per year. The true extent of the problem is thought to be even bigger.
  • Mining: The snow leopard also faces threats from mining and other developmental activities that could destroy the mountain ecosystem it relies on.
  • Threat to food: Leopard’s main prey species (wild sheep and goat) are also threatened by unsustainable or illegal hunting. If their populations decline, so do the snow leopard’s.
  • Climate change: Temperatures are on the rise across the world and the changes impact the entire ecosystem: vegetation, water supplies, animals – and they threaten to make up to a third of the snow leopard’s habitat unusable.

Conservation of snow leopards in India:

  • The Government of India has identified the snow leopard as a flagship species for the high altitude Himalayas.
  • It has developed a centrally-supported programme called Project Snow Leopard for the conservation of the species and its habitats.
  • Currently, India has 516 snow leopards, out of which 86 are in Uttarakhand. The rest are living in regions of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • These instances clearly show nature is rejuvenating during the nationwide lockdown in the wake of the ongoing pandemic.

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