As part of the national protocol, Uttarakhand forest department on Monday started an estimation of the snow leopard population in the state, officials said.
Ranjan Mishra, additional principal chief conservator of forest for wildlife, said the process started with a ground survey in areas above 3000m height.
“We are starting with a survey where locals from snow leopard habitat areas will be asked to complete a questionnaire on direct and indirect signs for the presence of snow leopards. This will include information about domestic animals being killed, direct sightings, pug marks,” said Mishra.
The process is being carried out in ten forest divisions of the state in the higher reaches of districts like Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Pithoragarh.
“This estimation process is not just an exercise in finding the number of snow leopards in the area but also about studying the landscape. We want to know about the prey base, the ecology of the area and what improvements are needed. Along with the process, we will also be training the locals on how to earn a livelihood by combining conservation with ecotourism,” added Mishra.
From the ground survey, areas will be identified and broken down into grids for installing camera traps with the help of experts from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. Snow leopards are found in about 23% of the geographical area of the state which is about 13,000 sq km and for preliminary investigation, this area is likely to be divided into 80 grids of 15 sq km each.
Mishra said that an estimate of the number of snow leopards in the state will be released by December 2021
Last year in October, the first national protocol for snow leopard population assessment in five Himalayan states, including Uttarakhand, was released by the union environment ministry. The protocol is titled ‘Snow leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI).
Snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is facing many threats to its existence due to poaching and habitat destruction. It inhabits the Himalayas at elevations ranging from 3,000 to 4,500 metres.