Snow Leopard spotted for the first time in North Sikkim

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Who: Snow Leopard
Where: North Sikkim Plateau
What: Spotted for the first time

WWF-India on 27 January 2016 claimed that they spotted the endangered snow leopards for the first time in the North Sikkim Plateau. The elusive snow leopard was found during its pilot project in which they installed camera traps in the region to understand the occurrence of snow leopards in the region.

The camera traps helped them to yield results with the first photos of the species at four different locations in North Sikkim.

Earlier, presence of snow leopards in the high altitudes of North Sikkim area were provided only by the yak herders, known as ‘Dokpas’, but these pictures have provided the first tangible evidence of their existence.

Besides capturing the snow leopard, the pilot project also helped in capturing other mountain wildlife like rare pallas cat, blue sheep and the Tibetan argali. It has also provided visual documentation on free-ranging dogs and the areas they move in.

WWF-India’s work on snow leopard
To understand the snow leopard’s status and distribution in India, WWF-India has been working in Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim since 2006. The work was started to fill the vast gaps in knowledge on snow leopards from this important snow leopard habitat.

Its work of setting camera traps in Sikkim began in 2015 under the project Conservation and Adaptation in Asia’s High Mountains. The project aims at developing climate smart snow leopard conservation plan. Large part of the project is funded by USAID in six Asian snow leopard range countries.

About Snow Leopard
• Commonly referred as ‘Ghost of the Mountains’, these species are the undisputed monarch of the high altitudes.
• The snow leopard, a flagship species of the high altitudes, is a Schedule I animal under the Wildlife Protection Act of India.
• The animal is listed as endangered by the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.
• Information on its distribution is scanty because its current range is poorly mapped mainly due to the high and inhospitable terrain.

What’s making snow leopards scarce?
Habitat loss, poaching and increasing conflict with communities have seen over a fifth of the world’s snow leopards disappear in the last 16 years. And climate change is now putting the future of their mountain home at even greater risk.