Snow leopard skin seized by police in Dehradun

Thanks to SLN member Belinda Wright for this information:

“A snow leopard skin was seized by police in Dehradun on Wednesday morning, 5 December 2012. The Special Task Force of the Uttarahand Police arrested two people.” elaborates:

Poacher arrested with snow leopard’s skin

“Dehradun: A suspected poacher was arrested on Wednesday by the special task force for being found in possession of the skin of highly-endangered snow leopard, estimated to be over Rs 50 lakh in street market.

The accused Ravindra Singh Bhandari has been booked under the Wild Life Protection Act, said SSP (in charge) of STF Senthil A Krishnaraj.

Bhandari was arrested from his Gangotri Vihar home late last night, Krishnaraj said, adding that the accused was going to smuggle the big cat’s skin and tail to Delhi.

The snow leopard comes under the highly-endangered category and only 500 of them are left all over India, he said adding that the skin recovered from Bhandari’s possession is estimated to be over Rs 50 lakh in street market.”


Rare snow leopards photgraphed by World Wildlife Fund

(AP) SRINAGAR, India – A pair of rare, reclusive snow leopards have been photographed wandering a remote, mountain region once ravaged by conflict between India and Pakistan.

Trap camera snow leopard image

Infrared camera traps set up months ago by World Wildlife Fund-India filmed the adult snow leopards in Kargil district just a few miles from the heavily militarized Line of Control that runs through the disputed territory of Kashmir.

WWF-India says it is the second photo sighting of endangered snow leopards in Kargil, after one was photographed hunting a herd of Asiatic Ibex in 2009.

Snow Leoaprd Trap Camera Image

The recent sighting has encouraged environmentalists as it suggests the big cats were not scared away from the Kargil mountains by the 1999 India-Pakistan conflict that killed hundreds of soldiers on both sides before a cease-fire was established with U.S. mediation.

Snow leopards are considered the most endangered of big cats and face threats from poaching, habitat loss and retaliatory killings by farmers for lost livestock.

They live in regions of extreme cold and harsh terrain and are difficult to study. Between 4,000 and 6,500 are believed left in the wild in the Himalayan regions of Afghanistan, Bhutan, Siberia, Mongolia, Pakistan and India.

WWF Pakistan Nature Carnival Declares Winner

LAHORE: The World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF) on Monday announced winners of the nature carnival that was held on Sunday.

Students of Roots School System (RSS), Model Town were declared winners of the WWF Nature Carnival 2012 for the second year in a row. Rootsians displayed a ground-breaking and inventive project on the theme ‘Habitat Conservation of Endangered Species – Snow Leopard, Dolphin, Green Turtle’, showing the significance of conservation, protection, restoration, and management of fish, wildlife, and native plants. The project also outlined the methods of preservation and restoration of ecosystems.

A panel of judges, including experts on conservation and wildlife, avowed the winners. RSS ED Walid Mushtaq congratulated the winners and RSS management for the triumph and appreciated the steps taken by WWF.

Crime chiefs agree to get tough on illegal tiger trade

By Mark Kinver Environment reporter, BBC News

Crime chiefs from countries with populations of wild tigers have agreed to work together in order to combat the illegal trade in the big cats.

Heads of police and customs from 13 nations agreed to tighten controls and improve cross-border co-operation at a two-day meeting in Bangkok.

Only six subspecies remain, with fewer than 1,000 tigers in each group.

Smuggling of tiger parts is one of the main threats facing the planet’s remaining big cats, say experts.

The seminar in Thailand’s capital, organised by Interpol and hosted by the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), was attended by 26 senior crime officials and representatives from partner organisations, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

‘Natural heritage abuse’

“[Our efforts to fight tiger crime] must not just result in seizures – they must result in prosecutions, convictions and strong penalties to stop the flow of contraband,” said John Scanlon, Cites secretary general.

“If we get the enforcement system right for the tiger, we will help save countless other species together with their ecosystems.”

Jean-Michel Louboutin, Interpol’s executive director of police services, observed: “This important seminar has highlighted the environmental crime challenges facing senior law enforcement officers, and the need for enhanced international co-operation.

“Criminals cannot prosper from abusing our shared national heritage.”

Delegates also used the meeting to formally endorse the Interpol-led Project Predator.

The initiative, launched in November 2011, has three main aims:

* organising collaborative, high-level international efforts to improve political will to tackle the problem of illegal trade in tiger parts
* transforming politicians’ will to act into tangible support from government departments and agencies
* training enforcement officers in the necessary skills

Project Predator is also encouraging countries to establish National Tiger Crime Task Forces, which will form working partnerships with Interpol, in order to provide “modern intelligence-led enforcement practices for tiger conservation”.

Interpol said the project would not be limited to the protection of tigers, but would extend to the all of Asia’s big cat species, such as the snow leopard and Asiatic lion, as these animals faced similar threats.

The meeting in Bangkok is the latest development in efforts to improve protection and conservation measures since a high-profile summit in November 2010 pledged to double the global population of tigers by 2022.

At the gathering in St Petersburg, Russia, senior political figures from the 13 range nations pledged to protect tiger habitats, address poaching, illegal trade and provide the financial resources for the plan.

Over the past century, tiger numbers have dropped from about 100,000 to about 4,000 tigers in the wild today.

And over the past decade, there has been a 40% decline, with conservationists warning that some populations were expected to disappear completely within 20 years unless urgent action was taken.

Power project in Uttarakhand hits green tribunal hurdle

Flowers will continue to bloom in the world heritage site Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand as the National Green Tribunal has stayed work on a controversial power project in buffer zone of the Valley that was approved by the environment ministry.

The tribunal this week stayed the approval given by the ministry to GMR Energy for cutting down trees in 60 hectare of forest land in the ecologically sensitive area for construction of the 300 MW Alaknanda-Badrinath hydroelectric project. The tribunal ordered no trees on the forest land proposed to be diverted shall be felled without its prior permission.

With this directive, work on the project could come to a halt for all practical reasons because the Supreme Court had earlier observed that work on non-forest lands of any project can’t be taken up if work on forest lands is held up due to some reason.

The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) had denied clearance to the project twice in 2011 on grounds of adverse effects on the region’s ecology and wildlife. However, environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan overruled FAC and gave go-ahead to GMR last November. Subsequently, green groups challenged the clearance in the tribunal.

The power project falls in the buffer zone of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, which extends over two national parks-Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers-listed as World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

The region serves as a corridor for movement of snow leopard, brown bear and other wild species.

The FAC had observed that existing disturbance in the region such as pilgrim movements during summer, road construction and work on Vishnuprayag hydroelectric project had already seriously threatened ‘outstanding universal values’ of the Valley of Flowers. In order to preserve these values, the state government had declared a buffer zone which is also required to be conserved as the integrity of Valley depends on the zone.

Among wild habitats, the most affected would be the habitat of the snow leopard, an endangered species. Snow leopards require large and contiguous landscape and any fragmentation of their habitat poses a danger to their survival. The ministry’s own Project Snow Leopard suggests landscape approach to conservation of the species.

“Developmental projects in roads, barrages and hydel may have limited impact on large mammals on their own, but the process of building these structures can be more damaging. Blasting, movement of labour and vehicles can cause irreparable harm by disturbing habitat,” observed Yash Veer Bhatnagar, director, Snow Leopard Trust-India.

Read more at:

Elusive snow leopards seen thriving in Bhutan park

(Reuters) – The elusive, endangered snow leopard is apparently thriving in a park in Bhutan, as seen in camera trap images released on Tuesday by the government of Bhutan and World Wildlife Fund.

Over 10,000 pictures of the snow leopards were captured last October and November by four cameras placed in Wangchuck Centennial Park as part of a survey conducted by Bhutan and WWF.

Unaware of the camera, one animal walks up to the lens, while an adult female and a young snow leopard pace a few steps away. Another image shows an adult feline nearly invisible against a stony Himalayan background.

Most significantly, a video clip shows one adult leopard scent-marking its territory, a way to communicate with other snow leopards about gender and breeding status. It also can show there is a resident animal, not one that is just passing through.

That is important, because the snow leopard is threatened by retaliatory killings by herders, habitat lost to farmers and poaching for their spotted pelts. There are an estimated 4,500 to 7,500 in the wild.

The camera trap evidence shows core snow leopard habitat in Wangchuck Centennial Park, which functions as a corridor between Jigme Dorji National Park to the west and Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary in the east. The survey is meant to figure out how many snow leopards are in Wangchuck park and where they are, in order to target the best places for conservation.

Listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, snow leopard populations are suspected to have declined by at least 20 percent in the last 16 years due to habitat loss and the loss of prey.

Their habitat — above the tree line but below the snow line — is a narrow band that is expected to get narrower due to climate change, survey leader Rinjan Shrestha said in a telephone interview.

As trees are able to grow at higher altitudes, snow leopards may be pushed further uphill, but could be constrained by limited oxygen at high altitude.

Warming at high elevations in the Himalayas is occurring at three times the global average. If climate-warming greenhouse emissions continue at a low level, 10 percent of snow leopard habitat could be lost, WWF said.

Under a high emissions scenario, about 30 percent of habitat could be vulnerable, Shrestha said.

“Its habitat is relatively narrow in Bhutan compared to other parts of its terrain,” Shrestha said from Toronto. “That’s why I was not sure we could see many in Bhutan.”

The cameras also showed a healthy population of blue sheep, the snow leopard’s main prey.

(Reporting By Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Snow leopard reemerges in Chitral forests

CHITRAL, Jan 26: Snow leopard was spotted in the forests near Bakamak and Shali villages in Chitral district on Wednesday and Thursday after long disappearance.

An official of the local wildlife department told Dawn on Thursday that the big cat appeared near Bakamak and Shali areas but heavy snowfall forced it into moving to Toshi game reserve at lower altitude.

He said snow leopard hadn’t been seen in the area over the last two years amidst fears about its extinction.

People thronged the Garam Chashma Road to catch a glimpse of the leopard.

The wildlife department official said the big cat descended to the areas of low altitudes in search of food after heavy snow in forests and high mountains and that small animals, including markhor and ibex, were its cherished food.

People fear attacks on them and their livestock by the big cat, especially at nighttime.

Ejaz Ahmad, a biodiversity specialist, said snow leopard lived in areas alongside Hindu Kush range of mountains.

He said leopard was declared an endangered specie in the recent past but its population density later surged satisfactorily.

Mr Ejaz said massive grazing in alpine rangeland, human conflicts, climatic change and decline in snowfall had led to reduction in the number of leopards. He said WWF had launched a snow leopard welfare project in some Chitral villages.

Meanwhile, Dinar Shah, in his eighties and from Seen village, said previously, people used to guard their families and livestock at nighttime but installation of bulbs around the village had curtailed leopard attacks.

He said leopard’s attacks on people were very rare as it targeted livestock, especially goats, only. He said the former Chitral rulers banned leopard killing but lifted the ban in view of growing cases of its attacks on livestock.

Some regretted that leopard was poached in the area for skin, which had a great demand in national and international market, without let or hindrance. They demanded registration of cases against leopard poachers.

WWF-Pak, IMC hold travelling nature carnival\01\23\story_23-1-2012_pg7_10

KARACHI: As many as 2,500 people from various spheres of life, including schools, colleges and universities students, participated in annual Travelling Nature Carnival held here at PAF Museum Sunday, organised by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Pakistan in collaboration with Indus Motor Company (IMC).

The carnival was aimed at motivating and involving youth and general public in valuing the rich natural heritage of Pakistan, and supporting conservation initiatives.

Among its several engaging activities, the most innovative was the 3D display model competition. Hundreds of students participated in live presentations to the judges and guests, featuring themes such as habitat conservation of endangered species (snow leopard, green turtle, Indus dolphin), water conservation, a green idea, solid waste management (recycle, reuse, reduce), global warming and climate change, ecotourism, energy conservation, and green architecture.

The winning institutes were bestowed with shields and certificates. There were 150 stalls set up by schools, universities and commercial entities.

The carnival also arranged environment puppet show, live musical performance, magic show, environment games and quizzes, nature art exhibition, theatre, and environment debate competition.

Speaking on the occasion, WWF-Pakistan’s Regional Director Rab Nawaz pointed out that through the carnival environmental messages could be conveyed to the large number of audience. He further said that children are the stewards for change; they should be equipped with conservation practices, he urged.

Senior Manager Corporate Relation, WWF Pakistan Marriyum Aurangzeb said that for past 10 years, WWF Pakistan’s nature carnival had been playing its role as a unique endeavour that brought together thousands of visitors, such as students, families, corporate sector, media, government organisations, conservation organisations and general public. It provides a collective platform for building knowledge and interest in responsible action, ecologically conscious development and sustainable living.

MD IMC Pervaiz Ghias was the guest of honour at the carnival. While speaking to the participants, he said that the Toyota environmental programme launched in 2011, in partnership with WWF-Pakistan, being implemented in 100 schools, 15 colleges and 10 universities, was a great success.

IMC is proud to be a part of the carnival and hopes to make the young generation of Pakistan an environmentally sensitive generation and a guardian of our natural resources.

Programme Coordinator Indus for All Programme Nasir Ali Panhwar stressed on the unique nature of carnival in terms of establishing diverse level of participation and an integrated approach towards nature conservation. He highlighted need of creating awareness about environmental issues with support of media.

Scientists snap rare photos of snow leopards in Tajikistan

Congratulations to all the SLN members involved in this project!

Tajik snow leopard – A British-lead team of scientists has snapped rare intimate photographs of the elusive snow leopard on a remote mountain on the Tajik-Afghan border.

The photographs of the five snow leopards over a two month period in former Soviet Tajikistan suggest that the scientists may have discovered a hotspot for the endangered cat.

Dr Alex Diment, a scientist with Cambridge-based conservationist group Fauna and Flora International, was the expedition manager on the team of 25 people.

He described how they set up camera traps triggered by motion sensors along the side of an untouched valley for two weeks in August.

“We went up into the Wakhan range which is a mountain range on the border with Afghanistan,” Dr Diment said. “We’re pretty sure that it has never been surveyed for bio-diversity in that region.”

Snow leopards are so agile and so elusive that it is impossible for humans to physically track them.

Also in the group was Dr David Mallon, a snow leopard expert who is attached to Manchester Metropolitan University and is chairman of the Snow Leopard Network, a group dedicated to conserving the snow leopard.

Ten other scientists were Tajiks and the rest of the team were support staff.

The group returned to the valley two months later to collect their cameras and inspect the photographs.

“It was really surprising to have so many individuals,” he said of the snow leopards in the photographs. “I thought we might get one or two but to get five individuals in a small area, including a family with cubs was a great surprise. It was very exciting.”

The spotted pattern on the snow leopards’ white, grey body is unique to each cat, meaning they can be individually identified.

There are only an estimated 3,000 to 8,000 snow leopards left in the world. The wide estimate demonstrates the snow leopards’ elusiveness.

They typically live above an altitude of 4,000m on remote craggy mountains in Central Asia, China and Afghanistan. Trapping for their coats and a drop in prey have hit the snow leopard and driven them to the edge of extinction.

Photographs of the two cubs show them inspecting the cameras before they became so curious that they actually took one of the cameras away.

“We came back and we were missing a camera but had no idea what could have happened to it,” Dr Diment said.

The team searched without success and it wasn’t until they returned to the nearest city and looked at the memory card of another camera that they discovered the truth.

“There was the culprit stealing the camera,” he said. “They stole one of the cameras but the paired camera pointing at the other one showed them nicking it.”

Snow leopards retain a mystical allure in Central Asia and are depicted on the emblems of cities and organisations across the region. Almaty, Central Asia’s financial capital, and Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, both have snow leopards on their emblems.

In the Soviet Union, mountaineers who climbed all five peaks over the 7,000 metres were given the Snow Leopard Award.

Snow leopards return to Kargil areas

Jammu, November 28 – Tribune India
With peace in the Kargil sector, snow leopards are again seen in the area. Due to the Kargil War in 1999, most of the wildlife species, including snow leopards, had abandoned their habitats in Kargil. However, with the improvement in the situation, a big cat with two cubs had been spotted in the area.

Earlier, locals claimed that they had seen the animal, though there was no evidence of the presence of the big cat, post-Kargil War.

Jigmet Takpa, Regional Wildlife Warden, Ladakh, told The Tribune over the phone that these big cats, having tails as long as their bodies, which had almost abandoned their habitats in Kargil after 1999, had returned to the area.

“Though Leh and Kargil are the best suitable habitats for this endangered specie, the snow leopards were not seen in Kargil during the past few years,” said Takpa.

He added, “Poaching was a major problem. However, it has now been brought under control and the big cats can once again be seen in Kargil.”

Takpa said there were nearly 400 snow leopards in the region comprising Leh and Kargil districts.

“We have one national park and two wildlife sanctuaries here. These animals move about freely in an area of 97,000 sq km,” he said.

Giving further details, Takpa said the Wildlife Department had launched various projects in association with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other agencies to save and attract more snow leopards. “The results are very positive. The situation has improved in Leh also, where these big cats can be easily seen,” he said.

Takpa lauded the role of the Army in the return of the snow leopards to Kargil. “The Army has played a major role in controlling poaching, which was the biggest threat to the animal. No one can move freely with a weapon, without the permission of the Army. These animals face no threat from poachers now.”