Cameras keep eye on snow leopards in Spiti Valley, India

2010-12-29 11:10:00

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

Himachal Pradesh to measure wildlife density

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.

Himalayan Snow Leopard Research Centre to be set up in Himachal Pradesh, India

Friday, June 18, 2010

Shimla: With an aim to boost research and conservation of snow Leopards in the country, Himachal Pradesh would soon set up an international level research centre in Spiti valley, a senior officer of state Forest department said today.

“Himalayan Snow Leopard Research Centre” would be set up in Spiti valley of tribal Lahaul & Spiti district under the scheme of integrated development of wild life, principal chief conservator of forest AK Gulati told PTI.

“The Rs5.50 crore project to be funded by Union ministry of forest and environment, would emphasis on research and training on conservation of snow Leopard”, Gulati added.

This would be the first comprehensive snow Leopard radio collaring centre in India, he said.

The centre would have a fully equipped field station laboratory with necessary instruments, he added.

Only Mongolia has such facility at present.

The HP has a population of 35 snow Leopards as per 2004 census out of which 23 is in Spiti valley itself, Gulati said.

Himachal Pradesh takes steps to consolidate Snow Leopard Conservation

Himachal Pradesh takes steps to consolidate Snow Leopard Conservation Press release from the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department issued on 17 June 2009

In a significant step to strengthen conservation of the Snow Leopard, the state animal of Himachal Pradesh, the wildlife department organized an intensive and constructive brain-storming session with snow leopard experts on Tuesday, 16th June, in Shimla. The workshop, chaired by the Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Himachal Pradesh, Shri Avay Shukla, was attended by senior staff of the Wildlife Department, field staff from Spiti Wildlife Division, Snow Leopard experts from the Nature Conservation Foundation and the Snow Leopard Trust. Snow leopard is a globally endangered species, restricted to the high mountains of Central Asia. Coarse estimates place its global population at around 7500, which is fast believed to be depleting. One of the main threats to the snow leopard is its retaliatory killing by local communities, whose livestock this cat occasionally preys upon. There is also the threat of illegal trade in its pelt and bones.
The Spiti Valley is a stronghold for this endangered cat in India. In today’s workshop, senior Wildlife Department officials and snow leopard experts discussed the need for a good conservation program across Spiti’s landscape, which is based on good scientific information on the one hand, and involving the local communities on the other. Good training of wildlife field-staff in participatory conservation, wildlife monitoring, and general welfare were identified as important next steps.
In this unique collaborative project, snow leopard experts are working closely with the senior wildlife officials to develop a good, participatory management plan for the Spiti landscape. In today’s meeting, results of painstaking research conducted over 4000 km2 by wildlife experts in the Upper Spiti Landscape was presented by snow leopard experts, and the structure of the management plan was laid out. There were spirited discussion on all aspects, and valuable inputs were provided by the wildlife officials.
As the next step, a combined team of Senior Wildlife officials and snow leopard experts will be visiting Spiti to conduct local consultations. The management plan is expected to be finalized over the next few months, and implemented with support of Project Snow Leopard, a recently approved programme of the Government of India.
The PCCF cum Chief Wildlife Warden Himachal Pradesh, Mr. A.K. Gupta, while giving valuable inputs during the discussions, also proposed a vote of thanks, appreciating the effort made so far in this unique project. The wildlife department is determined to set up a unique and participatory snow leopard conservation programme in Spiti Valley, one of India’s most important snow leopard landscapes.
Some additional published information about the meeting:
Plan to conserve snow leopard Tribune News Service
Shimla, June 20
Wildlife experts and officers of the Forest Department have held discussions to finalise a management plan for the conservation of snow leopard under the national project being implemented in the Himalayan states.
The snow leopard experts from the Nature Conservation Foundation and the Snow Leopard Trust, who have been studying the endangered cat in the state, were of the view that the cold desert of Spiti with its scarce human population and vast area was ideal for conservation. The findings of studies conducted over 4,000 sq km in the Upper Spiti Division were presented along with the structure of the proposed management plan. The need for a conservation programme based on good scientific information and involving local communities was underlined. Proper training of the field staff in participatory conservation, wildlife monitoring and general welfare were identified as the key areas for the successful implementation of the project.

Spiti valley chosen for initiating Project Snow Leopard in Himachal

Posted: Friday , Mar 27, 2009 at 0142

As the pre-project stage gets underway in the state, the first-ever census of snow leopards is being conducted by the National Conservation Foundation (NCF), a non-government organisation. So far, only the head count of snow leopards is as per estimates, that put the numbers at around 400. After the snow leopard was identified as a highly endangered species in Himachal, over a year ago, the state government had taken an initiative to declare it as the state animal as it is the most important species of the mountain region and is at the apex of the ecological pyramid. Though its habitat is in the upper reaches (above 3,000 metres) of Himachal, one of the main issues to be tackled by conservationists would remain man-animal conflict and protection of the ecology of its natural habitat. “Conservation with community participation” is expected to be the focus of the project and resident communities as well as the nomadic communities such as Ban Gujjars would also be involved in sensitisation towards the conservation of the animal. Chief Wildlife Warden A K Gupta said, “The survey work of NCF in Spiti valley, where over 1,000 square metres of biological strategic landscape would be first identified for conservation, has started.” In a phased manner, the project would be extended to Pangi in Lahaul, Kinnaur, Bharmour in upper Chamba, Bara Bhangal in upper Kangra, Mantalai, Pin Parvati, upper great Himalayan National Park, upper Manali under upper Kullu and Rupi Bhabha and Dodra Kwar in upper Shimla district. Project Snow Leopard, launched by the Centre, would accord the snow leopard the same status of importance in areas of high altitude, as has been allotted to the tiger in the terrestrial landscape. Starting from village wildlife conservation committees and landscape-level implementation committees, the network of conservation would be headed by a state-level committee in which the wildlife department is contemplating involving all stakeholder departments such as agriculture, animal husbandry and horticulture. HP to launch snow leopard project
Pratibha Chauhan
Tribune News Service
Shimla, July 13
Encouraged by the marginal increase in the number of snow leopards in Himachal, one of the biggest habitat of the endangered species, the Wildlife Department is in the process of launching a project for developing a conservation strategy to increase their population.
For the implementation of the snow leopard project, the wildlife authorities are already in touch with the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mussorie. Even a marginal increase in the number of snow leopards from 32 to 35, during the latest census this year has encouraged the department to launch the project at the earliest. The fact that during the latest census undertaken in June, for the first time the mapping of the exact location of the snow leopard has been done, which will help in their conservation and increase in number. The habitat status analysis of the snow leopard will be done to identify the areas where it has been found in larger numbers. “During the recent census, our staff has recorded 24 snow leopards in Spiti, eight in Lahaul and Pangi and the three new animals have been sighted in the Parbati valley and Great Himalayan National Park in Kulu district,” informed Mr A.K. Gulati, Additional Principal Chief Conservator (Wildlife). Himachal apart from Jammu and Kashmir, Uttaranchal and Sikkim is one of the few states in the country where the snow leopard is found. In Himachal, it is mostly found in Kaza, Lahaul Spiti, Pangi, Parbati and the Great Himalayan National Park. The project will take care of the proper management of the Himalayan habitat of the snow leopard. “Another important aspect that the project will take care of will strengthen the number of Himalayan Thar and Ibex, which are the natural feed of the snow leopard,” said Mr Gulati. The wildlife authorities are also keen on getting a project for the conservation of the Himalayan wolf also know as the Tibetan wolf as it is considered the mother of all wolves. The Nature Conservation Foundation, Mussorie, is keen to develop policy document and action plan that will promote wildlife conservation. Another area which they feel needs immediate attention is better understanding and management of the human and wildlife conflict, which is on the increase due to human interference with their natural habitat. With regard to the snow leopard, efforts would be made to focus on its conservation and recovery programme as it is one of the endangered species. In this regard it is felt that a programme must be developed for wildlife conservation outside the protected areas and promote ecologically responsible development.

HP to protect endangered snow leopards in the state

This story is from the Chennai Online Jul 02, 2009

Shimla, July 2 The Himachal Pradesh government has submitted a project to the Centre to protect the endangered snow leopards in the state.

The state government has submitted a Rs 1.40-crore project to the Centre for the protection and conservation of the endangered snow leopards in Himachal Pradesh, Forest minister J P Nadda said today.

According to a 2003 census report, there were only 35 snow leopards in the state. The animal is found in high altitude regions in Lahual and Spiti district.

This project for 2009-10 has been formulated after reviewing progress of the ongoing activities of the forest department at Spiti, an official release said.

A management policy was being formulated for the protected area in Spiti valley, which would also help in protecting the wild life, the minister said. – (Agencies)