Nod for snow leopard project
Tribune News Service
Shimla, February 21
The Snow Leopard Conservation Project will finally take off in the cold desert of Spiti with the Centre releasing the first instalment of Rs 80 lakh for the implementation of Rs 5.5 crore project.
The most remarkable feature of the project is the Snow Leopard Research Centre to be set up at Kibber. It will be the only second such institution in the world to be set up on the pattern of the one existing in Mongolia.
The integrated project formulated by the Mysore-based Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) is being implemented in five trans-Himalayan states where the prized animal is found. The project was approved in principle in 2007 but for the implementation in the field, a comprehensive management plan was to be formulated after conducting a baseline survey.
The NCF which has been working on the endangered animal in Spiti for the past 20 years has already finalised the plan and now implementation would start.
Principal secretary, Forests, Sudipto Roy, who pursued the matter for release of funds, said it was designed on the pattern of the Project Tiger to be funded by the Centre.
With relatively less biotic interference, the Spiti valley was the stronghold of the endangered cat in India. An important feature was that the project would involve the local communities in monitoring and conservation to help reduce the snow leopard-migratory grazier conflict which had taken a heavy toll of the animal.
It is a unique collaborative project on which snow leopard experts are working closely with the senior wildlife officials to develop a good, participatory management plan for the unusual Spiti landscape on the basis of authentic scientific data.
The painstaking research conducted over 4000 sq km by wildlife experts in upper Spiti has revealed the presence of 4 or 5 snow leopards per 100 square km. The presence of other high altitude species like ibex, snow cock, blue sheep and grey wolf has also been noted during the research study to co-relate it with the snow leopard on through the prey-predator relationship and delineate its domain and movement. It is for the first time that so much research has been carried out in preparing a management plan before starting implementation of the project.
Besides Himachal, the project is being implemented in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttrakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh where the animal is found.
Snow leopard is a globally endangered species, restricted to the high mountains of Central Asia and rough estimates place its global population at around 7,500, which is believed to be fast depleting.