Srinagar, Apr 09: For the first time wildlife experts in barren mountains and green valleys of Ladakh will soon start the counting of the elusive, endangered snow leopards, wildlife officials said.
So far the population of “grey ghost” has only been estimated without a proper census. According to Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) only 750 snow leopards are left in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.
“It is for the first time that snow leopard estimation would be done anywhere in the country,” Pankaj Raina, wildlife warden Hemis was recently quoted by Hindustan Times as saying. “We are hopeful to start the process by April.”
The counting will take place in Hemis National Park and Kargil area of Ladakh by the state forest department in association with the ministry of environment, forest and climate and also with the technical support from WII.
Snow leopards cats, whose pelts command a high price on the international black market, are native to the remote mountain ranges of central and southern Asia. Wildlife groups say their numbers are dwindling due to habitat loss and poaching.
The snow leopard, a high altitude big cat, has a thick soft grey coat with ringed black spots to help it camouflage itself among rocks and weighs up to 75 kilograms
In 2009, India which has the third-largest population of snow leopards after China and Mongolia, launched “Project Snow Leopard” a special project to save the endangered cat in Jammu and Kashmir. The project was aimed at training people and buy equipment to curb poaching and habitat loss.