Srinagar: For the first time, snow leopards have been spotted in Kashmir.
Usually endemic to Ladakh, the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) has been listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN’s) red list given its large scale poaching. The animal has also been listed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
A study conducted by the Mountain Wildlife Division of SKAUST Kashmir has confirmed the presence of snow leopards in Gurez and Sonamarg.
Entitled `Assessment of Status Distribution & Threats of Snow Leopard In Kashmir Region’, the aim of this project was to explore the potential habitats of snow leopards.
“Our survey showed that snow leopards exist in two potential areas of the Kashmir region – Gurez and Sonamarg,” Dr. Khursheed, Associate Professor, Mountain Wildlife Division, SKAUST Kashmir told The Kashmir Monitor.
Wildlife Warden, Kashmir, Rashid Naqash said earlier it was believed that snow leopards are only found in the Ladakh region, but now it has been confirmed that they exist in the Kashmir region also.
“We have got photographic evidence. The pictures were clicked by the locals in Gurez area”, he said.
However, the census of snow leopards has not been conducted in Kashmir sp far.
“It is not easy to conduct the census of this species because they can’t be spotted easily. It is just the beginning. The work is still going on,” said Dr. Khursheed.
Wildlife Warden, Kashmir, noted that they are working on the census part. “We do not have data about the present population of snow leopards in the Kashmir region. But as soon as the investigation will be completed and the landscapes identified, we will work on the census”, he said.
The snow leopard is a part of a species recovery programme of Union Ministry of Environment. Ladakh of erstwhile part of united Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand were covered under the programme. The project covers all the snow leopard habitat areas.
“We are hopeful that the Kashmir region will also be incorporated in the snow leopard project”, said Khursheed.
Wildlife Department officials said they are going to project Kashmir`s landscape (where the species are found) so that it is included in the conservation programme of the Environment Ministry.
“We will leave no stone unturned to conserve the animal and preserve its habitat”, said Rashid.