The researchers from the Nature Conservation Foundation, who are partners with the J-K wildlife department, recently noticed the movement of snow leopard in the upper reaches of Baltal-Zojila area of Kashmir.
The sighting has brought hope among wildlife conservationists who said there is limited evidence of snow leopards across the union territory.
Altaf Hussain Dentoo, Wildlife Warden, Central division told that the snow leopard is probably in Kashmir. “Recently, we also received some photos, so there is a good chance that snow leopards may be found in Kashmir,” he said, adding that “We’re currently working on an endangered species prevention project in the Kashmir Valley, and we’re also doing some research on it.”
He said that snow leopards are not harmful to humans. “They attack only when they feel endangered. The Jammu and Kashmir department of wildlife protection has formally launched the first-ever snow leopard assessment in J-K.
J-K’s Department of Wildlife Protection and Programme Manager of National Conservation Foundation (NCF) in a statement said that the Department of Wildlife Protection had been conducting surveys with partner NGOs to understand the 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.
It said that this iconic and culturally treasured great cat was 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 sq km potential snow leopard of J-K for a few years now covering Gurez, Thajwas, Baltal-Zojila, Wurwun, and Kishtwar landscapes. There is extremely limited evidence of snow leopard occurrence across J-K,” the statement said.
It said that recently in a historic revelation, partners on this project, and researchers from Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) recorded images of the snow leopard in the upper Baltal-Zojila region of Kashmir.
The statement further reads that the team involved in the camera trapping was headed by Munib Khanyari and accompanied by Aashiq Dar of Tangmarg, Baramulla, Aijaz Raina of Sarbal, Sonamarg, Tanzin Thuktan, Rinchen Tobge, and Kesang Chunit of Kibber, Himachal Pradesh.
It said that they were supported extensively by the staff of the Department of Wildlife Protection and the research associates and supported by Suresh Kumar Gupta, IFS Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden and Regional Wildlife Warden – Kashmir Rashid Yahya Naqash.
Notably, India had launched Project Snow Leopard in 2009 to save the elusive and vulnerable species. Unofficial estimates put the population of snow leopards in India around 500. It is believed that about 60 percent of the snow leopards in the country roam the snowy wilderness of the Himalayan region of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir at an altitude of about 3,000 metres. The rest are found in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
The present snow leopard population assessment in J-K covers potential areas in Kishtwar and adjoining forests in Jammu, Gurez, Thajwas and Overa Aru in Kashmir region.(KNO)