Oct 23 is recognised as International Snow Leopard Day .
As per reports, India is home to about 450-500 snow leopards which can be spotted in the upper Himalayan regions of the country.
About Project Snow Leopard
This Project was started in 2009 in 5 states of country namely J & K, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand .
The aim of this project is to protect the habitat and population of snow leopard through public awareness and participation.
About Snow Leopard
Scientific Name: Panthera uncia
Top Predator: Snow leopards act as an indicator of the health of the mountain ecosystem in which they live, due to their position as the top predator in the food web.
Mountainous regions of central and southern Asia.
In India, they found in Western Himalayas: Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh.
Eastern Himalayas: Uttarakhand and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
Hemis National Park is the biggest national park in India and also has a good presence of Snow Leopard, therefore Hemis of Laddakh is called as snow leopard capital of the world .
Numbers: There are only between 3,920 and 6,390 snow leopards left in the wild.
Range extends through twelve countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Protection Status of Snow Leopard –
The snow leopard is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN-World Conservation Union’s Red List of the Threatened Species.
Snow leopards were considered endangered species until 2017.
In addition, it is also listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).
Making trading of animal body parts (i.e., fur, bones and meat) illegal in signatory countries.
It is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
It is also listed in the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), affording the highest conservation status to the species, both globally and in India.
It is also protected by several national laws in its range countries.
Conservation efforts – National level:
India has been conserving snow leopards and their habitats through the Project Snow Leopard (PSL).
India has also been a party in the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) Programme since 2013.
For conservation, India has identified three large landscapes, namely, Hemis-Spiti across Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh; Nanda Devi – Gangotri in Uttarakhand; and Khangchendzonga – Tawang across Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
Snow Leopard is in the list of 22 critically endangered species for the recovery programme of the Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change.
Snow Leopard conservation breeding programme is undertaken at Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling, West Bengal.
SECURE Himalaya:Global Environment Facility (GEF)-United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funded the project on conservation of high-altitude biodiversity and reducing the dependency of local communities on the natural ecosystem.
This project is now operational in four snow leopard range states, namely, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim.
Community volunteer programme “Himal Sanrakshak” to protect snow leopards launched in October 2020.
In 2019, First National Protocol was also launched on Snow Leopard Population Assessment which has been very useful for monitoring populations.
Conservation efforts- International level:
In 2013, the Bishkek Declaration set a goal of protecting at least 20 snow leopard landscapes with viable snow leopard populations by 2020, and led to the formation of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP). Since then, October 23 is commemorated each year as International Snow Leopard Day.
The Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme (GSLEP) was also launched on the same day to address high-mountain development issues using conservation of the snow leopard as a flagship.
The GSLEP is a high-level inter-governmental alliance of all the 12 snow leopard range countries. It majorly focuses on the need for awareness and understanding of the value of Snow Leopard for the ecosystem.
Living Himalaya Network Initiative
Living Himalayas Initiative (LHI) is established as one of WWF’s global initiatives to bring about transformational conservation impact across the three Eastern Himalayan countries of Bhutan, India (North-East) and Nepal.
Objectives of LHI include adapting to climate change, connecting to habitat and saving iconic species.