The Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Department has 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.
This iconic and culturally treasured big cat is a good indicator species as it reacts quickly to habitat disturbances and its successful conservation requires long-term sustainable systemic solutions to threats affecting habitat quality.
J&K Wildlife Protection Department and National Conservation Foundation (NCF) Program Manager Munib Khanyari, in a statement released, said the Wildlife Protection Department had been conducting surveys with NGOs partners to understand the presence and abundance of snow leopards in the snow leopard population.
He said this iconic and culturally treasured big cat was a good indicator species as it reacts quickly to habitat disturbance and its successful conservation requires long-term sustainable systemic solutions to threats affecting habitat quality.
“Several teams have been conducting surveys in J&K’s nearly 12,000 square kilometres of the potential snow leopard for a few years, covering the landscapes of Gurez, Thajwas, Baltal-Zojila, Wurwun and Kishtwar. There is extremely limited evidence for the presence of snow leopards at J&K,” the statement said.
He said that recently in a landmark revelation, this project’s partners, Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) researchers recorded images of snow leopards in the upper Baltal-Zojila region of Kashmir.
The team involved in the camera trap consists of Munib Khanyari (NCF Program Manager), 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 extensively supported by Department of Wildlife Protection staff and associated researchers under the guidance and support of Suresh Kumar Gupta, Senior Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife)/Chief Wildlife Warden of IFS and Rashid Y Naqash, Regional Wildlife Warden – Kashmir.
This finding brings renewed hope to Kashmir and its high-altitude regions, as the snow leopard’s presence can be used as a conservation flagship to address high-mountain development issues for people and the environment.
More similar findings from ongoing surveys of these landscapes are expected in the coming days. The camera trap exercise also revealed other important and rare species, such as the Asian ibex, brown bear, and Kashmir musk deer, as well as incredible information about other biodiversity components of those habitats, interactions, and threats to be documented form of a final report.
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