Snow leopards spotted in western Nepal (by SLN member Bikram Shrestha) 2011-11-16 12:20:37

KATHMANDU, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) — Conservationists are elated with the sighting of three snow leopards in lower areas of Mustang district in western Nepal recently, local media reported on Wednesday.

Due to their inherently rare and mysterious character, these critically endangered mammals, scientifically known as Uncia, are often seen by a few people including researchers and conservationists.

“I saw a small number of Himalayan Blue sheep grazing around the grassland near Taprang in Jarkot area on Thursday morning. I waited for a while and moved my eyes around, and suddenly I saw a snow leopard coming towards the pasture from the stream nearby,” said Bikram Shrestha, field biologist and a member of the census team. “I was elated and took numerous pictures of the animal.”

According to Wednesday’s The Kathmandu Post daily, a team of researchers and technical experts are conducting the first ever count of the snow leopards in the country for the past three weeks.

Meanwhile, digital cameras installed in different parts of the mountainous district on Oct. 28 have recorded the sight of two more snow leopards in Taprang area near Muktinath temple and Namuma area in Jomsom. The cameras will be installed in more areas in Mustang by Dec. 15. Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC), USA for Nepal Snow Leopard Corridor Project and Snow Leopard Scouts in coordination with National Trust for Nature Conservation and Annapurna Conservation Area started the count of the mammal from Mustang.

Experts believe that about 300-500 adult snow leopards survive in the country, particularly in Manang, Mustang, Dolpa and Gorkha districts. Due to habitat loss and increased poaching activities, their number is declining in recent years, said Karna Shah, another member of the research team.

The snow leopard, which lives around 5,000-6,000 meters above sea level, is considered a solitary animal.

Editor: Zhang Xiang

SLN member Qadamshoev Mamadsho observed a snow leopard outside Khorog town, Tajikistan in November 2008

Mamadsho Qadamshoev of the Pamir Biological Institute of Tajikistan wrote:

At 2:15 night on 4th – 5th of November 2008 in the countryside of Khorog town the taxi driver Mozimov Mulibsho wanted to cross the road by the small bridge and suddenly noticed that in the middle of the bridge about 3-5 meter far from him is staying a young Snow Leopard. The driver stopped the car and started to look at the beautiful creature. From the other side of the bridge 5 people were walking toward the Leopard. What do you think what did the young Leopard do in this case? Did it move toward the car or the walking people? Or it jumped to the river? No. The Leopard looked around and calmly as a domesticated animal walked toward the people and then moved straight to the side of mountains, where 15-20 meters far from the bridge the other big Leopard (female) was waiting for him. Both of them moved to the side of the Pamir Botanical Garden.

It turned out that for many years this bridge and other bridges of Shohdara River and the mountain rivers become a pathway for the Snow Leopards to move from the one side to another mostly at night time.

In this case the two Leopards were crossing the road of the North Ishkasim spine by the central bridge to Roshtkala spine, where the snow is lesser.

The snow is not steady in these rocky southern slopes and it avalanching right away. The part of the slopes where the snow melts becomes a pasture for the goats. For the last few years the mountain goats are the common prey for wolves and Leopards whose numbers are increasing and they make a herd of 30-35. In the spring (usually in April) the herd of mountain goats is moving to the northern mountainside and the beasts of prey – wolves and leopards also follow them. On May and September the main prey of the predatory animals is the red marmot, which is common in the mountains. Such is life of the predatory animals and their prey in the sever mountain condition where the winter is 60 degrees of frost with frequent snow-slips and in spring there mudflows and other natural disasters. Despite this thankfully life is continued in these severe mountains.