Srinagar: Wildlife rangers are going deep into the mountainous of Gurez and Ganderbal to spot endangered snow leopards.
Earlier last year, the wildlife department formally launched the first-ever snow leopard survey in Jammu and Kashmir.
The survey is a part of the nationwide population assessment of snow leopards, being carried out as per the protocols laid by the ministry of environment, forest, and climate change.
The project is being funded by the Centre under the Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI) programme.
Wildlife officials told The Kashmir Monitor that these locations have been selected after repeated tracing of snow leopards.
“Snow leopards have been spotted earlier in Gurez and Ganderbal. Our focus will be to assess their population in these areas so that proper planning could be made for their conservation,” they said.
The snow leopard population assessment exercise is underway in several parts of the country. “Jammu and Kashmir has become part of it after getting approval from the government,” officials said.
Officials said hair samples, scat, and other evidence will be collected which would be sent to a Bengaluru-based central government institute for DNA analysis to ensure perfect data after completion of the exercise. Camera traps are also been installed at a number of places to spot the animal.
A document available with The Kashmir Monitor said that the wildlife department is hiring project associates for surveying and monitoring the snow leopard population in their potential landscapes up to ending March 2022.
“These four project associates will be stationed at Tulail (Gurez) and Thajwas- Baltal (Sonamarg),” it said.
Recent studies by SKUAST have confirmed the presence of snow leopards in Gurez and Sonamarg.
Officials add that the department is planning to complete the survey in May-June 2022 to ensure the inclusion of exact data of the snow leopard population in J&K in the national database likely to be released by the central government in October.
Pertinently Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Uttarakhand are already covered under the programme.
Unofficial estimates put the population of snow leopards in India around 500. It is believed that about 60% of the snow leopards in the country roam the snowy wilderness of the Himalayan region of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir at an altitude of about 3,000 meters.