Environment and Forest Minister Thiru A. Raja said that the union Government offers all support to launch specific measure for effective conservation of snow leopard and envisaged to streamline activities to protect the endangered species. He said the Project Snow Leopard will be made successful on the lines of Project Tiger and Project Elephant by conservation and management of high altitude ecosystems and its wild life. No project can be successful without local people’s participation, he added.
Inaugurating a National Workshop on Snow Leopard at Leh, Ladakh yesterday the Minister said field research on the Snow Leopard by research institutions and organizations in the last two decades has provided the much-needed information on ecology, habitat use, food habits, behaviour, movement and ranging patterns. It is now the appropriate time to launch specific measures for its effective conservation. The Minister assured to consider the recommendations and resolutions that would be made during this workshop. The Snow Leopard or Shan (in Ladakhi) is one of the most beautiful cats of the world and is recognized as the ‘king of the snow-capped mountains’ of the Himalaya and Central Asia. It is one of the world’s most elusive, rare and endangered predators. For centuries, it has been an integral part of the life and culture of the people of Ladakh and other high Himalayan regions of India. Aptly named, this elusive and shy predator is perfectly adapted to live in snow-covered high-altitude regions of the Himalaya and mountains of Central Asia.
The estimated world population of Snow Leopards in the world is 3,500-7,000, out of which about 500 cats are spreading across the States of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in India. About 600-700 Snow Leopards are reported to be in the zoos around the world including a few individuals that are housed at the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, Darjeeling and Nainital Zoo, Uttaranchal. Although the Snow Leopard occurs in 12 countries that encompass a potential range of about 1.5 to 2.0 million square kilometer area, the actual area where Snow Leopard occurs is very fragmented. Factors such as decline in wild prey populations, poaching for skin and body parts, and retaliatory killings to decrease livestock depredations are the main threats to the conservation of Snow Leopard in India.
Just as what ‘Tiger’ means to most of the ‘forested and grassland ecosystems of the Indian subcontinent’ it is the ‘Snow Leopard’ for the ‘high altitude ecosystems of the Himalaya and Central Asian mountains’. The Snow Leopard is at the apex of the food pyramid in the Himalaya, helping in the maintenance of the balance of nature. It can, therefore, be regarded as an “Umbrella Species”. Our conservation efforts would not only benefit the Snow Leopard but also several other wildlife species that inhabit the Snow Leopard habitat, the Environment & Forest Minister said.
Some of the initiatives to protect the Snow Leopard taken by the State Governments include creation and management of Protected Areas, capacity building of its officers and frontline staff, payment of compensation for livestock killed by Snow Leopard, and working with local communities in collaboration with Hill Development Councils, research institutions and NGOs. Conservationists and mangers from six Snow Leopard Range States of India participated in this workshop. They had deliberations on various issues of this cat, strategy and action plan to conserve it and related problems. The workshop was organized by Department of J&K in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India.
(Hon’ble Minister for Environment & Forest Thiru A. Raja inaugurating the National Workshop on Snow Leopard which was held at Leh, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir – one photograph attached )
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