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
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.