The Launch of India’s Project Snow Leopard

The Launch of India’s Project Snow Leopard


Snow Leopard Network


10-11 July 2006

Leh, Ladakh, India


The fragile high-altitude mountain ecosystems of northern India are of enormous ecological and cultural importance. In addition to maintaining snow leopards and their prey, these ecosystems support pastoral communities, watersheds that sustain vital agriculture, and several other endangered species. However, the over-grazing of livestock strains the resources available to wild ungulates, therefore decreasing the amount of prey available to snow leopards and causing attacks on domestic herd animals. In turn, snow leopards are often the target of retribution killings as pastoral communities struggle to maintain their herds. If local communities are to continue their traditional way of life, the conservation of these magnificent cats and fragile ecosystems must become a priority.  It is this need that prompted the Nature Conservation Foundation and ISLT to pursue the establishment of a national action plan to be known as Project Snow Leopard.


A very successful national conference took place on 10-11 July with the purpose of launching Project Snow Leopard (PSL), a conservation initiative modeled after Project Tiger and Project Elephant with the purpose of preserving the ecosystem to which snow leopards belong through cooperating with local residents, governments, scientists, and NGOs. The conference was organized by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India (MoEF) and the Department of Wildlife Protection, Jammu and Kashmir. Also involved were the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) and International Snow Leopard Trust (ISTL). It was well attended; guests included several prominent MoEF dignitaries, officials from the forest departments of the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, and many prominent scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), NCF, and ISLT, several of whom are members of the Snow Leopard Network.


The workshop came as a culmination to a two-year series of state-level conferences organized by NCF and ISLT in cooperation with the governments of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir with the purpose of identifying regions that need to be included in PSL. This series of conferences resulted in a concept paper calling for a scientifically sound and socially responsible high altitude wildlife conservation strategy involving the State and Central Governments, representatives of the local communities, and conservation and development NGOs. 


The workshop facilitated the exchange of information between the forest departments of the five states with high-altitude ecosystems and the MoEF, and a set of thirteen recommendations decided upon so as to guide the drafting and implementation of a PSL document.


Recommendations of the National Workshop on Project Snow Leopard:


1.          The high altitudes of India (> 3000 m, c. 250,000 km2, including the Himalaya and Trans-Himalaya biogeographic zones) support a unique wildlife assemblage of global importance, which needs to be conserved through a focused strategy and action plan under the Project Snow Leopard (PSL).

2.          PSL will promote wildlife conservation through a participatory process by fully involving the local communities in conservation efforts, and seeking their active participation in conservation through appropriate incentives.

3.          As a significant proportion of Himalayan high altitude wildlife occurs outside Protected Areas, PSL will follow a landscape level approach that gives due importance to conservation both within and outside Protected Areas.

4.          PSL will strengthen and enhance the capacity of state forest and wildlife departments in effectively managing high altitude wildlife through provisioning of manpower, resources, incentives, and capacity building.

5.          PSL will be formulated in line with the National Wildlife Action Plan (2001-2016), and will incorporate the salient features articulated in the state-level PSL workshops and the Snow Leopard Survival Strategy, and in addition, draw lessons from the experiences of other flagship species programmes such as the Project Tiger and Project Elephant.

6.          PSL will support research on wildlife and human dimensions throughout the high altitude areas of the snow leopard range states of India.

7.          PSL will encourage an adaptive management framework which will provide for constant monitoring of wildlife populations and human socio-economy, and for periodic course-corrections in management actions.

8.          As the high altitudes also represent a vast rangeland system, PSL will assist the states in the development of grazing policies and management practices that will aim to harmonize the objectives of pastoral interests with those of wildlife conservation.

9.          PSL will promote research-based species recovery programmes.

10.      PSL will promote community-based management programmes for resolving human-wildlife conflicts.

11.      PSL will promote conservation education and awareness initiatives.

12.      Given that most of India’s high altitude wildlife habitats are along international boundaries, PSL recognizes the importance of co-opting the armed and para-military forces in conservation efforts, and exploring possibilities for trans-boundary conservation efforts.

13.     The MoEF will constitute a committee comprising of the participating states and other key stakeholders for the drafting of the PSL strategy and action plan.

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