Lonely existence for Himachal snow leopard

2010-03-16 11:40:00

He is rugged, handsome and the undisputed monarch of his vast territory, but terribly lonely. Subhash, a nine-year-old snow leopard at a Himachal Pradesh nature park, is waiting for a suitable mate and authorities are worried the forced celibacy could adversely affect his behaviour.

Subhash has been living a life of loneliness at the Himalayan Nature Park in Kufri, 15 km from here, since his maturity. He was bred from a pair of snow leopards brought from Finland.

‘Efforts have been on to find a suitable partner for Subhash for quite some time. We are now pinning hopes on the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Zoo in Darjeeling to arrange a new bloodline female snow leopard for him,’ Chief Conservator (Faunal Diversity and Protected Areas) Sanjeeva Pandey told IANS.

‘Darjeeling is the only other zoo in the country besides Kufri which has a snow leopard. We have approached them and they assured us that they would soon be in a position to provide a female snow leopard,’ he said.

Subhash and his sibling Sapna were brought to Kufri from Darjeeling under an exchange programme in 2004. The breeding programme couldn’t be initiated as they belonged to the same bloodline. Sapna died due to disease in 2007.

This was the second mysterious death of a snow leopard in the nature park. Earlier, a female snow leopard had died. The female leopard had been discovered as a cub by the shepherds in the Spiti Valley in Lahaul and Spiti district and was reared in the park.

‘We are hoping that we might be lucky again to encounter an abandoned female cub or a wounded snow leopard from the higher reaches of Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Kullu districts, where there is a good population of snow leopards,’ Pandey said.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Vinay Tandon said: ‘We are scouting for a partner even from abroad. Subhash was bred from a pair brought from Finland. We are still trying to contact zoos in Finland, Holland and Bronx in the US to get a female snow leopard so that the breeding programme of the highly endangered species could be initiated.’

According to wildlife experts, the captive animals need to be kept in pairs; otherwise their natural behaviour could be affected.

‘Keeping animals in isolation for a longer duration often results in emotional stress and other behavioural problems,’ said Sandeep Rattan, a veterinary surgeon with the wildlife wing.

Even rule 37 of the Recognition of Zoo Rules, 1992, clearly mentions that no animal will be kept without a mate for a period exceeding one year unless there is a legitimate reason for doing so or if the animal has already passed its prime and is of no use for breeding purposes.

Photo Caption: A male snow leopard at the Himalayan Nature Park in Kufri, 15 km from Shimla. Photo: Kumar Lalit (Photo IANS)

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)