Jammu: The Department of Wildlife Protection Jammu and Kashmir has been conducting surveys with partner NGOs, to understand presence and abundance of snow leopards under the Snow Leopard Population Assessment of India (SPAI) project funded by the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change.
This iconic and culturally treasured great cat is a good indicator species as it quickly reacts to habitat disturbances and its successful conservation requires sustainable long-term systemic solutions to the threats impacting the quality of habitats.
Various teams have been conducting surveys across the near 12,000 km2 potential snow leopard of Jammu and Kashmir for a few years now covering Gurez, Thajwas, Baltal-Zojila, Warwan, and Kishtwar landscapes. There is extremely limited evidence of snow leopard occurrence across the UT of Jammu and Kashmir.
Recently, partners on this project, researchers from Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) recorded images of snow leopard in the upper Baltal-Zojila region of Kashmir. Often snow leopard surveys have focused in neighbouring areas of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The team involved in the camera trapping constitutes of Mr.Munib Khanyari (Program Manager NCF), Mr. Aashiq Dar (Tangmarg- Baramula), Aijaz Raina (Sarbal, near Sonamarg), Tanzin Thuktan (Kibber, Himachal Pradesh), Rinchen Tobge (Kibber, Himachal Pradesh), and Kesang Chunit (Kibber, Himachal Pradesh). They were supported extensively by the staff of the Department of Wildlife Protection and the research associates under the able guidance and support from Mr. Suresh Kumar Gupta, IFS Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife)/Chief Wildlife Warden and Mr. Rashid Y Naqash, Regional Wildlife Warden – Kashmir,
This finding brings renewed hope to Kashmir and its high-altitude regions, as the presence of the snow leopard can be used as a conservation flagship to address high-mountain development issues for people and the environment. In coming days more such findings from the ongoing surveys are expected from these landscapes. The camera trapping exercise also revealed other important and rare species such as Asiatic ibex, Brown Bear and Kashmir Musk Deer, besides Incredible information regarding other biodiversity components of such habitats, interactions and threats will be documented in the shape of a final report.