The Snow leopard is the State animal of Himachal Pradesh, and the State Forest Department’s commitment to snow leopard conservation is evident in the active role it has played, along with the Nature Conservation Foundation, in assisting MoEF, GoI to develop Project Snow Leopard. These two agencies have also been collaborating to generate sound scientific knowledge in the Spiti Valley, one of India’s most important snow leopard landscapes.
The Wildlife Wing, Himachal Pradesh Forest Department (HPFD) and the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore (NCF) have been leading some of the efforts of both research and conservation in the Snow leopard range in Spiti. The HPFD and NCF have also prepared a detailed landscape based and participatory Management Plan for the entire Spiti Wildlife Division.
Snow Leopard Project for Rs 5.15 Crores has been accepted by the MoEF, GOI commencing from 2010-11 onwards for a period of four years. Under this project, a globally unique, setting up of a field-based snow leopard research and conservation facility in the Spiti Valley has been proposed, to undertake India’s first comprehensive and long-term radio-collaring project on snow leopards and their prey. The only other such facility in Asia is the one set up by the Snow Leopard Trust, together with other partners and the Mongolian Government. However the Mongolian habitat differs considerably from the Himalayan ones; one primary difference being that while the former is mostly between 1,000 and 2,500m, the latter are mostly above 3,200 m.
The Himalayan Snow Leopard Research Centre to be set up in Spiti shall give a further boost to snow leopard research and conservation in the country with the broad goal of instituting and encouraging focused short and long-term studies pertaining to snow leopards. Following are the specific objectives:
The Centre is proposed near the Kibber Village, which already is the site of detailed research and conservation programmes led by HPFD and NCF.
Use of Radio Telemetry to understand Snow Leopard Ranging along Human Pressure Gradient in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
Important questions of Snow Leopard conservation relate to good estimates of its population, area needed for each animal (as per its age-sex), determinants of range quality in terms of prey availability, topography and disturbance, and their ability to movement across human and natural barriers. There is also a pressing need to understand conflicts and the role of individual snow leopards in it.
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