Snow leopards: India

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


Population and habitat

As in 2014

Some facts, Snow Leopard: India; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India

See graphic:

Some facts, Snow Leopard: India



Shivani Azad, Nov 11, 2022: The Times of India

Dehradun: Snow leopard, often referred to as ‘ghost of the mountains’ due to its elusive nature, has of late started showing up more often.

A few days ago, one of these cats was spotted by wildlife enthusiasts from the National Conservation Foundation (NCF) in Kashmir. In Uttarakhand, a pair of snow leopards was photographed by ITBP personnel in Chamoli.

Munib Khanyari, one of the members from the NCF team involved in monitoring of snow leopards across Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, said the sightings have gone up perhaps because of improved access to snow-clad terrains, habitat of the snow leopard. It is estimated that Ladakh has at least 200 snow leopards, considering its large area of 38,000sqkm and proximity to Tibetan plateau, where the animal’s presence is in abundance.

Uttarakhand — which has a nearly 13,000 sqkm area that is a potential habitat — has approximately 121 snow leopards, while Himachal Pradesh, which has around 26,000 sqkm of snow leopard habitat, has nearly 51.

The other two states are Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim which have nearly 6,000 sqkm and 3,000 sqkm of potential habitat respectively. S Sathyakumar, senior scientist at Doon-based Wildlife Institute of India said, “In past few years, we have developed methodology and invested in our workforce and mountain residents to spread awareness about snow leopards. All this is bearing results now in the form of frequent sightings. ”

Aparna Pandey from Secure Himalaya, an MoEFUNDP project, said it appears that the habitat has improved. Moreover, during the pandemic, the habitat and prey base was replenished. This could be leading to more sightings, she said.

State-/ region-wise


2019: at 50%, highest rate in world

March 5, 2019: The Times of India

A pair of snow leopards spotted in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. The success rate of snow leopard sightings in Spiti is over 50%- highest in the world.
From: March 5, 2019: The Times of India

The elusive and rarely sighted snow leopard is now frequently being spotted in snow-bound Spiti valley of Himachal Pradesh. What will delight wildlife lovers even more is the tendency of the endangered species to be seen in pairs.

Spiti is fast becoming a sought-after destination for Indian and foreign tourists alike. The big cat is now an added attraction.

It has found a safe haven in Spiti where residents are protecting it and have learned to live with it. The success rate of snow leopard sightings in Spiti is over 50 % which is the highest in the world. Elsewhere, wildlife lovers spend decades searching for this elusive animal.

“In the last few days, we spotted two pairs of snow leopard in Spiti .This is a welcome sign suggesting that the species is thriving here,’’said Spiti wildlife range officer Devender Singh Chauhan. Red fox, Himalayan tahr, woolly hare, Himalayan blue sheep and many other species also have significant populations here added Chauhan. He said with the valley having received heavy snow this season, wildlife is descending to the lower regions. With the increasing sightings of the snow leopard, Chauhan added wildlife department has started to run snow leopard conservation programmes in Spiti and the results have been outstanding. Chauhan added that the economy of the village too has got a major boost with the sightings of the big cats.

A large number of visitors are now ready to pay money to the villagers who in turn are ready to help them visit places where the snow leopard could be sighted. “This is because of the environment that this animal is thriving in, in Spiti,’’ added wildlife range officer.

The valley already has an unwritten law banning poaching and residents respect this creature, said Chauhan.



Pankul Sharma, Oct 23, 2022: The Times of India

Dehradun : In welcome news on International Snow Leopard Day, count of the elusive cat, also known as ‘Ghost of the Himalayas’, has risen to 121 in Uttarakhand now from 86 in 2016, said principal conservator Sameer Sinha. 

Sinha added: “If we compare Uttarakhand’s latest count with a 2016 study, we have reason to be happy. The census has been done in a scientific way for the first time. And the International Union for Conservation of Nature has now downgraded the snow leopard population from ‘endangered to vulnerable’. ”

Incidentally, the snow leopard census is being officially done for the first time in India. It began in 2019. While enumeration for Uttarakhand is complete, it’s still on in other parts of the trans Himalayan region such as Leh, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh. 

Regional warden of Leh-Ladakh, Mohd Sajid Sultan, said “Since the high-altitude area here (Leh-Ladakh) is vast, over 45,000sqkm, it will take a while longer. We have covered over 70% of the area. ”

In Uttarakhand, the count was carried out jointly by the state forest department and Wildlife Institute of India along with the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change. 
 These elusive big cats are at present spotted in only 12 countries of the world, with a total estimate of 3,000 on the lower side and 7,000 on the higher. In 2016, as per unofficial estimate, about516 were detected in India. 

“The gap of 4,000 (worldwide) shows how difficult the process (to spot these big cats) are,” Sinha said, adding: “Since these leopards live in a very low density area, decline in its number can be quite rapid”. 

Snow leopards are usually found at an altitude of 9,800ft to 17,000ft in the high and rugged terrains. And both Sinha and Sultan said climate change is a major threat to the population. 
 In Himachal, a study conducted last year estimated the count at 73. The study didn’t include cubs though. Earlier, there was an estimate between 62 and 65 in parts of upper Kinnaur and Spiti Valley. Kibber wildlife sanctuary is where snow leopards are mostly found. 
For these big cats in India, three large landscapes have been identified -Hemis-Spiti in Ladakh and Himachal; Nanda Devi-Gangotri in Uttarakhand, and Khangchendzonga-Tawang from Sikkim to Arunachal.

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