Snow leopards in forbidden Spiti valley to be radio collared
PTI | 2 hours 43 min ago

Shimla: Satellite-linked collars will be soon fitted on snow leopards in the tribal Spiti valley of Himachal Pradesh to get a deeper understanding of the behaviour of the endangered cat.

Half a dozen snow leopards would be fitted with radio-collars around their neck and their movements would be monitored through global positioning system (GPS).

Almost every step of the cat in the forbidden, high altitude mountain ranges would be under watch. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest has also sanctioned Rs 25 lakh for the study of the snow leopard.

The study would be the world's second on the endangered big cat. The first-ever radio-collar study on this rare species was conducted in Mongolia's Gobi Altai Mountains, said Devender Chauhan, a forest officer and researcher associated with project on snow leopard conservation in the Spiti valley.

Snow leopards have been categorised as Endangered Species on the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the species is listed as endangered by almost all range countries.

Despite being listed as endangered species, the population of snow leopards is dwindling in all 12 countries where the animal is found About half of the global population of snow leopards is found in three countries -China, Nepal and India- and authorities in these countries are discussing the possibility of trans-boundary research projects.

The number of snow leopards in Himachal is believed to be around 20. Himachal forest department is already 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 NGO Nature Conservation Foundation, has installed 20 camera traps (automatic cameras) in Spiti Valley under the Project Snow Leopard. As their movement is in an area of thousands of square kilometres in high altitude ranges, it is difficult to gather exact information about them.

The animal resides in one of the harshest and most inaccessible mountainous areas due to which it is almost impossible for wildlife biologist to explore them.

Snow leopards are facing many threats which include poaching, especially for their skin, but also for traditional medicinal trade and retaliatory killing by shepherds and villagers.