In a first, footage of a snow leopard in the wild in Himachal Pradesh’s rugged and fairly inaccessible Miyar Valley has been recorded by a state Forest Department employee.
The snow leopard was captured by a camera trap installed independently by forest guard Shiv Kumar on the outskirts of Udaipur village, some 52 km from the district headquarters Keylong in Lahaul-Spiti district.
Kumar, who owns the footage, told IANS over phone from Udaipur that the snow leopard was seen chasing a herd of the Asiatic ibex, a wild goat species.
State wildlife officials admit this is for the first time that the elusive snow leopard, a species whose survival is challenged by poaching and habitat loss, has been captured on camera in the Miyar region, adjoining Zanskar in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh.
Earlier, the sighting of the snow leopard has been recorded in the hill state’s Spiti Valley, the Pin Valley National Park, the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, the Great Himalayan National Park and Pangi and Bharmour areas of Chamba district.
Kumar said the snow leopard footage, which was of January 16, was made public this week when the data was retrieved from the camera trap.
Besides the snow leopard, other rare wildlife mammal species found in these rocky regions at altitudes of 2,800m are the Tibetan wolf, Himalayan brown and black bears, blue sheep, ibex, red fox, weasel and yellow throated marten, besides 75 bird species.
Kumar, who has been working in the region for over a decade, said he has spotted the pugmarks of the snow leopard in Miyar Valley several times.
“It’s only on the basis of pugmarks that I have selected the site where the camera trap was installed. In that area the locals were also talking about the sighting of the snow leopard but there was no authenticated proof of its presence,” an elated Kumar said.
Admitting that there could be a good possibility of the sighting of the snow leopard in the Miyar Valley, Mysuru-based Nature Conservation Foundation project associate Ajay Bijour told IANS that the area needs to be scientifically studied.
He favours starting a programme that would take care of learning more about the habitat, range and behaviour of the snow leopards.
The state’s Wildlife Department, in partnership with the Nature Conservation Foundation, is already monitoring the snow leopards through cameras in the Spiti Valley, the state’s northernmost part which borders Tibet.
Nature Conservation Foundation studies show the density of one snow leopard per 100 square km in the Spiti Valley.
A graceful golden-eyed animal with thick fur, padded paws and a long tail and found in rocky regions at an altitude of 2,700 to 6,000 metres, the snow leopard is a globally endangered species. Rough estimates place its global population at around 7,500.