Snow leopard caught on camera in Uttarakhand, India for first time

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April 22, 2011 5:23:29 AM The Pioneer


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.


Press release from Snow Leopard Foundation, Pakistan: Three snow leopards snapped in a single capture in Khunjerab National Park

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.

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

Camera traps for snow leopard to be installed in the Argut River valley, Russia

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)

Press Release from UNDP/GEF press office & WWF: Land of the Snow Leopard Project, Russia, 20 October 2010

Beginning on October 5, 2010, a 12-day expedition took place along the middle stretch of the Argut River as part of a project jointly funded by WWF, Altai Assistance Project, and The Altai Project to monitor the snow leopard population in the Argut River valley. During the expedition, Sergei Spitsyn, an employee of Altaisky Zapovednik, together with two Inegen residents, Aduchy Beletov and Viktor Samoylov, set up 18 Reconyx RapidFire and HyperFire camera traps along the middle Argut River in key habitat home to the largest population of snow leopard – on land between the mouths of the Shavla and Koir Rivers. Evidence of snow leopards has been found along the middle Argut from 2003-2009, and red maral deer and Siberian mountain goat population densities here are one of the highest in Southern Siberia. This landscape is immediately adjacent to the Argut Cluster of Sailyugem National Park, established for the protection of key groupings of argali and snow leopard in Russia in February 2010.

Earlier on 23-28th of August, during a UNDP/GEF-funded seminar on the use of camera traps for snow leopard monitoring, 7 cameras were set in place in potential snow leopard habitat along the lower Argut River valley. Over a month’s operation, the cameras collected over 1000 images of various resident species in Argut: bears, maral red deer, musk deer, foxes, Siberian mountain goats, Altai snowcocks, and even lynx. Despite this, the researchers’ cameras were unable to record images of snow leopard in this portion of the valley, easily accessible from local villages. No evidence of snow leopard was found along the lower stretch of the Argut River during expeditions led by Altaisky Zapovednik during the years of 2003-2008. Local residents report that snow leopards had been eliminated as early as the 1980s and 90s in this region; one can still find the remnants of old abatises, where poachers snares for the predator. No snares have been set in those places since 2000, but snow leopards have yet to return to these places, despite the excellent habitat and a wealth of prey: Siberian mountain goats, red maral deer, musk deer, and Altai snowcock. This is hope that with proper protection, snow leopard will return to these parts in the near future.

Despite the lack of snow leopard, the lower Argut basin is an ideal place to conduct ecotourism with the participation of local residents. The area is readily accessible and boasts beautiful scenery and rich wildlife. By inviting tourists to operate camera traps, visitors have the experience of hunting, but instead of pelt or horn trophies, they come away with unique pictures of living animals and birds and learn about the secret lives of Argut’s ancient residents. For all of these reasons, Argut is one of the most attractive places along the transboundary «Land of the Snow Leopard route, developed jointly by UNDP/GEF and WWF. The Land of the Snow Leopard project is actively engaging local residents in Altai, Tuva, and Western Mongolia in ecotourism development and rare species conservation in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion.

5-17 октября 2010 г. в рамках совместного проекта Всемирного фонда природы, Altai Assistance Program и Altai Project по организации мониторинга снежного барса в долине р. Аргут были проведены полевые работы в средней части бассейна этой реки. В ходе работ Сергей Спицын, сотрудник Алтайского заповедника, и два жителя с. Инегень – Адучы Белетов и Виктор Самойлов установили 18 автоматических камер Reconix RapidFire и HyperFire в средней части бассейна р. Аргут, в ключевых местообитаниях крупнейшей в России группировки ирбиса (территория между устьями рр. Шавла и Коир). В средней части Аргута следы снежного барса отмечались регулярно в 2003-2009 гг., а показатели плотности населения марала и сибирского горного козла здесь одни из самых высоких в Южной Сибири. Эта территория непосредственно прилегает к участку «Аргут» национального парка «Сайлюгемский», созданного для охраны ключевых группировок аргали и снежного барса в России в феврале 2010 г.
Напомним, что 23-28 августа в ходе семинара по использованию фото-ловушек для мониторинга ирбиса, организованного в рамках Проекта ПРООН/ГЭФ, семь автоматических камер были установлены в потенциальных местообитаниях этого вида в нижней части долины р. Аргут. Более чем за месяц работы камер было получено около 1000 снимков различных обитателей Аргута: медведя, маралов, кабарги, лисиц, сибирских горных козлов, алтайских уларов и даже рыси. Однако, обнаружить снежного барса в этой части долины, легко доступной из ближайших населенных пунктов, исследователям не удалось. Следы присутствия ирбиса в нижней части Аргута не были найдены и во время экспедиций Алтайского заповедника в 2003-2008 гг. По словам местных жителей, ирбис в этой части Аргута был истреблен еще в 80-90-е годы прошлого века, когда его отловом занимались чабаны, зимовавшие на стоянках на этой территории. До сих пор на острых горных гривах – излюбленных местообитаниях ирбиса – можно найти остатки старых засек, где браконьеры ставили петли на этого хищника. В 2000-2010 годах петли в этих местах уже не устанавливали, однако, снежный барс до сих пор не вернулся в эти места, не смотря на хорошие местообитания и обилие его объектов питания: сибирских горных козлов, маралов, кабарги и уларов. Сохраняется надежда, что при надлежащей охране ирбис вернется в эти места в течение ближайших лет.
Не смотря на отсутствие ирбиса – нижняя часть бассейна р. Аргут является идеальным местом для организации экотуристических туров силами местных жителей. Эти места легко доступны, имеют удивительные по красоте ландшафты и богатый животный мир. Использование автоматических фотокамер для работы с туристами позволит клиентам почувствовать себя настоящими охотниками, но вместо шкур и рогов животных получить уникальные снимки живых зверей и птиц, раскрыть тайны скрытных обитателей древнего Аргута. Все это делает Аргут одной из самых привлекательных частей трансграничного экотуристического маршрута «Земля Снежного Барса», разрабатываемого совместно Проектом ПРООН/ГЭФ и Всемирным фондом природы. Проект «Земля снежного барса» активно задействует местных жителей Алтая, Тувы и Западной Монголии в развитие экотуризма и охрану редких видов Алтае-Саянского экорегиона.

Snow leopard cubs caught on video in Mongolia

Oct 04, 2010

In this short video , three snow leopard cubs investigate a remote automated camera that filmed them in August in the Tost Mountains of South Gobi, Mongolia.

Two conservation groups, Panthera and the Snow Leopard Trust, are collaborating on a long-term study of snow leopards in the region. The clip is made up of 61 images taken about a half second apart. The cubs are believed to be approximately two years old.

It is estimated there are no more than 500 and1,000 snow leopards still left in Mongolia.

The project is the first ever long-term ecological study of the animals; and the most comprehensive study to date focused on snow leopards.

By Elizabeth Weise

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.

Wild snow leopard cub caught on film by trap camera in Bhutan

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.”

Photographer Steve Winter’s snow leopard photographs currently on display in London

December 1, 2009

Story behind the picture: Snow Leopard, 2008

Photographer Steve Winter on his candid picture of the elusive cat

The editor of National Geographic asked its photographers: “What would be your dream project?” I wrote “snow leopards”. I’d read a book about them years before I started photographing animals. We did a recce in Hemis National Park in Ladak, northern India, and met local people. Standing in the valley, it felt like being on the Moon: no trees, just rock. I’m a jungle guy, used to hot and steamy but I thought, I can do this. It took us four days to get our equipment in by horse and set up a base camp. Snow leopards are habitual: they mark locations by rubbing their necks on rocks to leave a scent, especially during the mating season. To see one, you have to find a trail: you won’t see one just walking around. I found a trail with the help of a local man named Tashi. We set up 14 remote cameras that use an infrared system with a laser beam. I wanted the photograph to be composed the way it would have been if I were lying on the ground, taking it myself. I wanted to make people say “wow”. This project was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. We spent six and a half months in the valley and at night, it reached -50C (-58F). I spoke to my wife at night on the satellite phone until my hands were freezing. We would check the cameras every one to two weeks so that we didn’t leave our scents there and put the leopards off. There was one camera with a frame that I loved, but the cats never went past it. Then one day there was this shot of a leopard in a snowstorm at night. I couldn’t have asked for better. You look at it and your jaw just drops. Steve Winter’s Snow Leopard is on display at the World Press Photo exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall, London, until December 13, 2009.