For the second year in a row a snow leopard was captured by the cameras installed in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (NDBR) in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.
The NDBR is taking technical support of the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) for this special exercise which began last year. A total of fifteen camera traps were installed in different parts of the NDBR this time. The operation began on April when snow leopards move to lower land in search of food. A photograph of the snow leopard, taken this year, was released by the NDBR recently.
The NDBR, which includes Nanda Devi National Park and the Valley of Flowers National Park, was declared as biosphere reserve under the Unesco’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme in 2004.
BK Gangte, director of NDBR, said, “Only the fortunate get a chance to watch the endangered snow leopard in the wild. We launched this project last year to capture images of snow leopard through camera traps. This is the second time in two year when we were successful in taking image of the snow leopard. Besides the snow leopard we were also successful in taking pictures of monal, musk deer, blue sheep and many other threatened species this year.”
This time the snow leopard was spotted near Farkya village in Chamoli. The village is located near an Indo-Tibetan Border Police post in the high Himalayas. Last year, on April 10, a snow leopard was caught on camera at Malari region of NDBR.
It is estimated that the total population of snow leopards in India is about 500. Most of the time the snow leopard was monitored through carnivore sign surveys based on evidences such as tracks/pug marks.
Only a few sightings by forest personnel and local villagers or herders were reported from NDBR, Gangtori National Park and Govind National Park in Uttarakhand. However there was no photographic record of snow leopard from Uttarakhand, till last year. After last year’s success, the forest staff continued the operation this year too.
The most beautiful, rare and elusive big cat – the snow leopard – inhabits high altitudes of the Himalayas (3,000 mts) and is the top carnivore of the Himalayan ecosystems.
The snow leopard preys on blue sheep, musk deer, Himalayan tahr, and many small mammals such as marmot, pika and galliformes (snowcock, monal, snow partridge etc). It also preys on domestic livestock when they are herded in the high altitude pasture lands during summer.
It is threatened due to poaching for skin and bones and retaliatory killings against livestock loss.