Enumeration the Ghosts for first time

Elusive snow leopard, which is also known as the ghost of the mountains, is for the first time counted in the Himalayas and its population found to be stable if not increasing s unlike its big brother Tiger. According to the Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI) which conducted the study, there is an estimated population of 718 in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh as in 2023.

Union Minister of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav released the report on the Status of Snow Leopards in India during the National Board for Wildlife meeting held in New Delhi this month.

Snow leopards are believed to occupy around one lakh sq km of the higher Himalayan terrains in India. This went well with the legend of the ‘ghost of the mountains’ built around the elusive cat’s mastery of stealth and camouflage. For its sprightly action even in high snowclad stiff cliffs it is also known as the acrobat of the Himalayas.

The SPAI exercise was conducted through a meticulous two-step framework. The first step involved evaluating Snow leopard spatial distribution. The second approach was camera traps. Based on data analysis, the estimated population in different states is highest in Ladakh (477) followed by Uttarakhand (124), Himachal Pradesh (51), Arunachal Pradesh (36), Sikkim (21), and Jammu and Kashmir (9).

In the last 2016, India’s leading snow leopard researchers came together to put the national estimate at 516. The present count of 718 is consistent with the trend and suggests overall population stability, experts feel.

In fact, counting the snow leopard, which is more like a tiger than a leopard, was in itself a tough task since it is very elusive and resides in much higher inaccessible elevation of the Himalayas.

Despite the challenges, consistent monitoring is essential to ensuring Snow leopards’ long- term survival. For the same, states and UTs can consider adopting a periodic population estimation approach in the Snow leopard range. Considering this the report stressed on the need for establishing a dedicated Snow Leopard Cell at WII under the MoEFCC.

Despite its remote and difficult habitat and elusiveness, this rare animal is under threat. Infrastructure development and tourist influx in once difficult Himalayan region is causing harm to the rare animal. In nature both tiger and common leopards also are a threat to the snow leopard since climate change is forcing the two species to move the third one (snow leopard) to move further upwards. Another species Himalayan Wolves are killing Nilgai which is a common prey of both.