How often do we talk about endangered species? It seems like a lot of times, but what happens next? We are just left talking without anything constructive happening in this regard.
We nearly saved the white tiger and the Bengal tiger, and it’s about time that something is done to save the mystical Himalayan wild cat- the snow leopard.
A rare and endangered species with only 3000 to 6000 left surviving on the planet, snow leopards reside in the rugged mountainous regions of Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In India, the trans-Himalayan regions of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu&Kashmir, Uttrakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh are known to be the habitats of snow leopards.
Threats to Snow Leopard Population
There are several threats to the snow leopard population which can be categorised into three major ones.
- Human Population- Hunting down snow leopards is illegal in all the countries where the species is found to thrive. Yet, poaching and even poisoning of the wild cat is widespread, especially in less privileged areas. The fur of the snow leopard is sold at unbelievably high rates in the foreign market. Yes, it is illegal but is sadly true. Lack of proper policies regarding the protection of snow leopards is another reason that their rareness is not being taken seriously by the lot. Trans-Himalayan regions have a large scope for development, which is why infrastructural projects are being set up on a large-scale in these areas, unknowingly destroying the habitats of this elusive creature.
- Depreciation of Prey- Herds of goats and sheep reared in the trans-Himalayas are being taken in as prey by the feral dogs. Taking advantage of the shy nature of snow leopards, these dogs even attack them if it seems feasible. Due to lack of proper facilities the prey is also, quite often, affected with diseases leaving lesser options for the mountain beast to take care of its hunger needs.
- Climate Change- It may seem that climate change is the root-cause of all misery on earth currently, but the fact is actually undeniable. Snow leopards are meant to live in the cold barren mountains. Their bodies are built for the snow-covered regions. Climate change has affected the amount of snow received by the habitable areas of this species. The body mechanism of snow leopards is being affected adversely.
Other problems like snow leopard diseases, habitat degradation due to overgrazing, lack of awareness, etc., also haunt the survival of snow leopards in India.
Conservation Initiatives in India
Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC) and Snow Leopard Conservancy- India Trust (SLC-IT)
SLC and SLC-IT are research and community based programs which deal with imparting the local people with ample awareness about snow leopard conservation. SLC has also, over the years, build predator proof pens for domesticated sheep and goats to save them from attacks by leopards, which in turn helps to avoid retaliation activities from the owners of such herds.
Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program
Due to the efforts of Global Snow Leopard Forum (2013) and the Bishkek Declaration made in the same, the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) was initiated. It is under this program that 2015 was designated International Year of the Snow Leopard in order to create awareness about their conservation among the masses.
Snow Leopard Trust and Nature Conservation Foundation India
Snow Leopard Trust in partnership with Nature Conservation Foundation has set up cameras across the habitat of snow leopards in the trans-Himalayas. These cameras take a picture whenever a hot body movement is sensed in front of it. This helps to know the condition and number of snow leopards surviving in the region.
With the current situation of environment and its components, we cannot afford to lose another specie of fauna to our negligence. Snow Leopards are the top carnivores of their ecosystem and hence, their importance to the ecological balance can’t be undermined.