Posted on 22 November 2011
Camera traps installed by WWF in the Nepalese Himalayas last month have captured their first picture of an endangered snow leopard. The cameras are part of a community monitoring project that will help WWF estimate number of snow leopards in area and determine the best way to conserve them.
“The camera traps are a means to empower local communities to lead conservation efforts of snow leopards,” stated Anil Manandhar, Country Representative of WWF-Nepal.
“With habitat loss, poaching and retaliatory killing by herders posing as major threats to snow leopards, community stewardship in conservation is key to the protection of snow leopards,” he added.
There are only about 6,000 snow leopards remaining in the wild. The animals stand to lose over a third of their habitat to climate change in the coming decades.
Last week, the Eastern Himalayan nations of Bhutan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh met to address the impacts of climate change on food, water and energy security, as well as on biodiversity (more here on the Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas). The countries agreed to collaborate on adaptation efforts to protect water sources, ensure sustainable food production, increase access to clean energy, and coordinate disaster management.
“The framework of cooperation will see the creation of an interconnected mosaic of conservation spaces across the Eastern Himalayas, crucial for communities that rely on the region’s natural resources for their survival and the protection of endangered species such as the snow leopard,” said Liisa Rohweder, CEO of WWF-Finland.
This graph shows the estimated snow leopard population by country. The elusive nature of the species makes it difficult to obtain an accurate population count.
FRONT PAGE | Wednesday, April 20, 2011 | Email | Print | | Back
April 22, 2011 5:23:29 AM The Pioneer
PNS | DEHRADUN
The first-ever photograph of a snow leopard in Uttarakhand taken by a camera trap in Chamoli district this month has buoyed the spirits of the State forest department and scientists of the Wildlife Institute of India. Given the fact that this photograph was taken about four months after the camera traps were installed, this development has also drawn attention to the threats being faced by this apex predator, considered a flagship species of the high Himalayas. The population of snow leopards in the five Himalayan States of India is estimated to be about 500.
The Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India and the Uttarakhand Forest Department have been working closely on the monitoring of wildlife in Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve through research projects, field surveys, expeditions and regular departmental activities. According to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wild Life Warden, Shrikant Chandola, the WII proposed the use of camera traps for monitoring snow leopards and estimating their population in Nanda Devi.
WII senior scientist S Sathyakumar provided training to the researchers and field staff of Nanda Devi in August 2010 following which about 15 camera traps were installed in the region during December 2010. This effort was undertaken as part of the WII-UNESCO Project for World Heritage Sites currently being implemented in Nanda Devi and the Valley of Flowers national park under the supervision of WII Dean VB Mathur.
Since being installed in December 2010, the camera traps captured photographs of many wildlife species including the common leopard, blue sheep, red fox, musk deer, Himalayan tahr and the Himalayan monal pheasant among others till the first snow leopard was photographed in the Malari region of Nanda Devi. The Government of India had launched Project Snow Leopard on the lines of Project Tiger in 1989 but the project failed to become operational and was revived in 2006.
According to Chandola, the State forest department will continue collaborating with the WII in the camera trapping efforts in Nanda Devi reserve for estimating the population of snow leopards in this region and, subsequently, other parts of Uttarakhand. He added that by effectively executing measures approved under the Centrally-sponsored Project Snow Leopard scheme, the Uttarakhand State Government will be able to enhance protection and management activities in the high Himalayan regions of Uttarakhand to safeguard the critically endangered snow leopard and its associated species of wildlife.
Three snow leopards snapped in a single capture in Khunjerab National Park
Snow leopards are so cryptic in nature and reside in one of the harshest and inaccessible milieus of our planet that encountering with snow leopard in the wild is like a dream. This elusive nature of snow leopard led one of the eminent wildlife biologists of the world to attribute this as “Imperiled Phantom”.
A total of 643 photographs including a group of 3 snow leopards (probably 2 sub adults with a mother) were photographed during an intensive camera trapping session of 560 nights in KNP during Nov-Dec. 2010, conducted by the Snow Leopard Foundation, Pakistan in collaboration with the Directorate of KNP and Gilgit-Baltistan Forest and Wildlife Department. The cameras captured many other wild species as well.
The Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserve viable populations of snow leopards and other wild carnivores as an integral part of landscapes across Pakistan, while improving the socio-economic condition of the people who share the fragile mountain ecosystem with the wildlife. The SLF works in partnership with the Snow Leopard Trust and Panthera, the two leading international wild cat conservation organizations, and operates in three core sectors: research and monitoring, community based conservation programs, and conservation education and awareness. It has
pioneered state-of-the-art research tools in Pakistan and operating in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khybger Pakhtunkhaw, and Azad Jamu and Kashmir.
The current study was undertaken in KNP from November, 23 to December 31, 2010 and was aimed at assessing the status of snow leopard as well as other carnivores, their key prey species, and human-carnivore conflict. The study also tested affect of different kinds of baits on camera trapping success.
In addition to camera trapping, more than 1400 km² area was scanned during occupancy surveys and 150 fecal samples were collected for genetic analysis. The study provided a rare learning opportunity to the staff of the Wildlife Department, and students from national and international universities, who were engaged. Once data analysis is completed, the study will provide more reliable estimates of snow leopard in the park besides highlighting existing management/monitoring limitations and ultimately help better manage the park resources in the longer run.
Panthera provided financial support for this study.
Shimla, Dec 29 (IANS) The third eye is monitoring the movement of the highly endangered, elusive snow leopard in the cold deserts of Himachal Pradesh. And one of the camera traps has thrown up useful footage – of a pack of dogs attacking and injuring a snow leopard.
With just about 750 snow leopards left in India, the Himachal Pradesh government is using cameras to monitor their movement in Spiti Valley, the state’s northernmost part, running parallel to the Tibetan border.
The state’s wildlife department, in coordination with Mysore-based non-governmental organisation Nature Conservation Foundation, has installed 20 camera traps (automatic cameras) in Spiti Valley.
One of the cameras captured shots of a pack of dogs attacking a snow leopard. The dogs were abandoned by the pastoral communities that migrate from alpine pastures in summer along with their livestock, chief wildlife warden A.K. Gulati told IANS.
‘From this video clip, we came to know that abandoned dogs are also a potential threat to the wild cat. However, in this case, the snow leopard managed to escape with minor injuries on its hind legs,’ Gulati said.
According to wildlife experts, the rise in the population of abandoned dogs might pose a threat to the snow leopards’ food chain.
‘The dogs usually attack in a pack and it’s easy for them to hunt even big mammals like the Himalayan blue sheep. This might reduce the prey base of the wild cat,’ an expert said.
The snow leopard, a graceful golden-eyed animal with thick fur, padded paws and a long tail, is found in rocky regions at an altitude from 2,700 to 6,000 metres (8,900 ft to 20,000 ft). Himachal has adopted it as its state animal.
Not only is the animal extremely elusive but its cold, inhospitable habitat means very little is known about it. Hence the need for technology.
‘Initially, 20 cameras have been installed in a 100 sq km area of Spiti to monitor the movement and behaviour of the snow leopards,’ Gulati told IANS.
Each camera costs around Rs.250,000 and is equipped with a sensor that shoots any movement of any animal in its vicinity. Each camera has a battery backup of 25 days.
‘Placing a camera is really a herculean task. One has to trudge miles of rugged, cold and inhospitable Himalayan terrain. We have to restrict even the movement of the humans as it might develop fear psychosis in the animal or spoil their habitat,’ he said.
The footages also captured some other animals like the Himalayan blue sheep and Asiatic ibex – a wild goat species. Both are important prey for the snow leopard.
He said footage indicated the presence of around 10 snow leopards, but nothing conclusive could be said in the study’s early stages.
‘Right now, we are not in a position to comment on the exact population of the wild cats in Spiti. But we can only say the area supports an impressive population,’ he said.
Apart from Spiti Valley, the wildlife wing also plans to install 20 camera traps in the Pin Valley National Park, the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, the Great Himalayan National Park and the Pangi and Bharmour areas of Chamba district, which has a sizeable population of the snow leopard.
Gulati said under the Project Snow Leopard, the state had sent a proposal to the central government to set up a snow leopard research institute in Spiti at a cost of Rs.5.5 crore. He said a major portion of the amount would be spent on improving the habitat of the animal.
The Himachal project is part of the central government’s Project Snow Leopard that was launched Jan 20, 2009, as part of efforts to conserve the globally endangered species.
The government had estimated the number of these wild cats to be around 750, but this is the first time an extensive study is being carried out to substantiate the figure.
The project is also operational in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh with support from the Wildlife Institute of India and the Nature Conservation Foundation.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
PRESS RELEASE – Altaisky Zapovednik
Mikhail Paltsyn, email@example.com
09 December 2010
On November 30, Altaisky Zapovednik finished an expedition to study snow leopard habitat in the Argut River Valley (Altai Republic). The expedition was organized as part of the UNDP/GEF project. Zapovednik staff, local residents from Inegen, and two Mongolian snow leopard specialists participated in the work.
Field work occurred in the lower portion of the Argut River watershed to the Shavla River, as well as the left bank of the Argut River between the mouths of the Shavla and Koir Rivers. The main goals of the expedition were to search for evidence of snow leopard activity and to survey population numbers for Siberian mountain goats in the given area. During the work, both traditional means (searching evidence of life: claw-rakes, scrapes, scent-markings, and pugmarks) and camera-trapping were used. Ungulate population levels were assessed visually on study routes. Across the entire research area, over 600 Siberian mountain goats were counted, numbers that are comparable to data gathered in 2007 and 2008 at this same site.
Over the course of the study more than 18 camera-traps installed in early October along the left bank of the Argut River between the Koir and Shavla Rivers were checked. The camera-traps were set up along intersections of mountain paths (narrow, low ridges, cliff ledges, and ravine passages) that are unavoidable for local species passing through the area. It should be noted that in these specific places the team found traces of old poaching snares. In addition to numerous mountain goats, the camera-traps recorded images of practically all the animal representatives of the Argut Valley including maral deer, musk deer, sable, and foxes. The automatic cameras photographed four different lynx and even captured three instances of the extremely cautious wolf. However, no snow leopard was photographed. The camera traps were distributed at optimal density for discovering the existence of snow leopard (1 camera per 10-16 sq. km) and they were left in place for over 30 days. For these reasons, we are confident that there are essentially no snow leopards in the research area between the mouths of the Koir and Shavla Rivers. The absence of snow leopards in the given area is further supported by the fact that no verifiable traces of this predator’s life activities were discovered here either.
The right banks of the Argut River between the Shavla and Koir Rivers were not yet possible to study, because the river ice is not yet thick enough, rendering a crossing there either impossible or extremely dangerous. This area, as well as the the Koir and Yungur Rivers basins, will be studied using camera traps in December 2010-March 2011. To date since October 2010, only a small portion of snow leopard habitat in the Argut watershed has been studied (the area below the mouth of the Shavla River and the left bank of the Argut River between the mouths of the Shavla and Koir Rivers). The rare predator has not yet been found in the region despite excellent snow leopard habitat and high populations of Siberian mountain goat – a primary prey animal for snow leopards.
The fieldwork was supported by WWF, Panthera Foundation, Altai
Assistance Project, and The Altai Project.
5 Oct 2010
[Excerpting only new information. Translation courtesy of Jennifer Castner, The Altai Project.]
“It is extremely important that local residents participate in the
area’s snow leopard monitoring. Installation of the camera traps will
all local residents to be drawn into nature conservation projects. “We
are not seeing any targeted snow leopard hunting along the middle
Argut right now,” commented Mikhail Paltsyn, director of the rare
species conservation project. “But poachers are still setting up great
numbers of snares for musk deer in the Koir and Yungur River valleys,
and those can catch snow leopard as well. In 2008, one of those
poachers was arrested in Koir for setting over 300 snares.”
This press release was developed by WWF-Russia (Altai-Sayan project)
Numbers in the jungle: Himachal Pradesh to measure wildlife density
Hemlata Verma Posted online: Wed Oct 06 2010, 02:03 hrs
Shimla : The state government has started a new project to measure the density of wildlife in protected areas. Till now, the state wildlife department only had information about the habitats and general movements of wildlife species found in the state. The state will now conduct a proper scientific study across all protected forests to find out the density of wild animals. The surveyors will primarily use the well established method of camera traps for the purpose. In the initial round, focus will be on species that have been declared endangered, such as western tragopan, monal and snow leopard.
Specialised agencies in the sector, including the Wildlife Society of India, are being engaged in the project that will span across 25 listed protected areas (sanctuaries and national parks).
“In the first stage, the agencies are in the process of setting up camera traps for checking the density of western tragopan in their natural habitat in Tirthan, Sainj (Kullu )and Kugti (Chamba) sanctuaries,” said an official in the forest department.
For other birds like monal and chir and animals, including Himalayan thar, ghoral, serow (ungulate species locally known as emu), camera traps are being laid in Talra and Churdhar wildlife sanctuaries. The method will lead to compilation of per square kilometre density of the wild animals.
A wild baby snow leopard has been caught on camera.
Filmed more than 4000m up in the highlands of Bhutan in the Himalayas, the baby leopard investigates a camera trap set by a BBC Natural history film crew.
The young snow leopard walks right up to the camera lens, sniffing it before off-screen walking into the bleak, rocky snow swept landscape.
Snow leopards are the highest living of all big cats, and are among the most rare and elusive of all animals.
Page last updated at 17:28 GMT, Tuesday, 21 September 2010 18:28 UK
Sep 22, 2010 3:34 PM ET By OurAmazingPlanet Staff
Rare Glimpse of Wild Baby Snow Leopard
A wild baby snow leopard was caught on film dubiously inspecting a camera trap high in the Himalayas, providing what may be the first-ever footage of a snow leopard cub in the wild.
Filmed over 16,400 feet (5,000 meters) high in Bhutan’s mountains, the cute little critter walks right up to the camera trap set by a BBC Natural History film crew, inspects and sniffs the lens before disappearing back into the mountain landscape. [Video at BBC]
“No wonder hardly anyone sees snow leopards, they are just so well camouflaged. You could literally walk 4 meters past one and not notice,” said BBC wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan, who took the images.
Buchanan believes the cub’s mother had left it near or in front of the camera trap while she went off hunting.
“It is one of the most exquisite looking animals I have ever seen,” Buchanan told the BBC.
Snow leopards are the highest living of all big cats, and are among the most rare and elusive of all animals. Snow leopards live between 9,800 and 18,000 feet (3,000 and 5,500 meters) above sea level in the mountain ranges of Central Asia.
Snow leopards are among the world’s most endangered big cats, but due to their elusive nature their exact number is unknown. Estimates vary, suggesting that between 3,500 and 7,000 snow leopards survive in the wild.
The camera trap’s footage of the young snow leopard will be broadcast this week as part of the BBC One program “Lost Land of the Tiger.”
From Wired.com and By Brandon Keim September 8, 2009 | Even as Apple’s newest operating system puts snow leopards on desktops around the world, the real animal fights for survival in the mountain wilderness of Central Asia. Declared endangered in 1972, between 3,500 and 7,000 cats remain in the wild. Their numbers are thought to be dwindling, though exact figures are hard to come by. Snow leopards are solitary, elusive and perfectly suited to their harsh homelands; researchers who study them can go for years without seeing one. In 2008, a consortium of scientists and conservation groups launched the first long-term snow leopard study. Using camera traps and GPS-enabled collars, they hope to gather basic information about the animals’ range and behavior, and use this information to better protect them. Wired.com talked to Tom McCarthy, program director for Panthera and the Snow Leopard Trust, about their work. Camera traps set beside known snow leopard trails, and triggered when an infrared beam is crossed, have captured thousands of images. Individual animals are then identified by their coloration patterns. Unlike older camera traps, the latest are digital and shoot every half-second or so, providing movies like the one above. GPS collars were first used in the early 1990s, but had to be abandoned. Their relatively short-range signals required researchers carrying hand-held receivers to follow the cats on foot. A difficult proposition in the best of circumstances, it was made even harder by signals dropping when cats ducked into a valley or around a mountain. The latest GPS collars are more powerful and reliable, and transmit location coordinates via embedded satellite links. “It’s essentially calling us three times a day to let us know where it’s at,” said McCarthy. “It’s giving us data that we couldn’t get any other way.” Movement records provided by the collars are providing important ecological information about the species. “We still have huge blank spots in terms understanding basic ecology and land use, how the cats relate to each other, how much distance they keep between each other, how they interact with humans how close they come to livestock,” said McCarthy. Another useful trick involves taking gene readings from their poop. “We can take genetic fingerprints of their feces, and identify individual animals,” said McCarthy. “But it’s still relatively expensive because of the cost of gene testing.” Along with technology, conservation strategies are also improving. In some regions, the Snow Leopard Trust has worked with villagers to sell their handicrafts to western markets in exchange for not killing the cats, which can threaten livestock. They’ve traded livestock vaccinations for leopard protection, and insured farm animals against attacks. The programs seem to be working, but data from the cameras and collars should give researchers a better idea of where to concentrate their efforts. Other threats to snow leopards include poaching, habitat loss and loss of prey. Even if people leave the cats alone, they can still disrupt the web of life on which the leopards rely. If snow leopards ever go extinct in the wild, they could be bred in zoos. But it’s not likely that zoo-raised animals will ever be able to survive in their ancestral homes. “Cubs stay with their mother for two years to learn the land,” said McCarthy. “It’s a real question whether you could put them in the wild. Asked how it felt to see snow leopards as part of a marketing strategy, McCarthy said that it was unusual. “It’s amazing to be able to be able to see these cats in person,” he said. “I spent seven years between studies, much of it in snow leopard habitat, and never even saw one. But as Peter Matthiesen wrote years ago, just knowing they’re out there is enough.”