SPOTTED: It is one of the most elusive wild cats in the world, aptly called the mountain ghost by locals. But officials at the Gangotri National Park in India’s northern state Uttarakhand were delighted to sight not one but two snow leopards within a span of a month roaming inside the protected area. This lucky sighting helps confirm the presence of the high altitude animal in the region and will boost conservation efforts made by the park.

In 1971, National Geographic’s Dr. George B. Schaller captured the first-ever picture of a snow leopard in the wild. Image courtesy National Geographic

Gangotri National Park is situated in one of the most pristine forested areas of the world in the western Himalayan region of Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. While the presence of snow leopards was always felt in this coniferous forest, there had been no confirmed sighting.

But a camera trap laid on the Gangotri-Gaumukh road finally recorded videos and still images of a male and a female snow leopard on two separate days, confirming that the wild cat was indeed living in this verdant habitat.

The footage in the camera recovered on December 16 showed a male snow leopard moving in the area on the night of November 18 and a female snow leopard moving around on the morning of December 2,

G.N. Yadav, Deputy Director, Gangotri National Park, said,

“This is fabulous and our hunt for the existence of this majestic high altitude cat along with its favourite prey — blue sheep — has paid rich dividends. The presence confirmed, we will now make extra efforts to conserve the animal.”

Now that the park officials have proof of the snow leopard’s presence, renewed conservation efforts would include,

  • Improving habitat of the snow leopard and its prey the blue sheep.
  • Intensified patrolling of the park.
  • Steps to improve and curb the degradation of the grasslands.
  • Soil conservation measures like building check dams.
  • Preventing landslides.

Mr. Yadav added that as the park does not have any human population within a radius of 10 sq. km and because of its ideal location, it would certainly suit as a home for the snow leopards and in future their population may only grow here.

Camera trap image of the Snow Leopard spotted at the Gangotri national park.

More About the Snow Leopard

Common Name – Snow Leopard, Barfani cheetah, him tendua, shan (ladakhi)

Scientific name – Uncia uncial

IUCN’s Red List status – Endangered

Interesting Facts

  • Snow leopards have powerful legs and are tremendous leapers, able to jump as far as 50 feet (15 meters).
  • Their long bushy tail is not only useful as a balancing tool on the mountainous path, but also as blankets to cover sensitive body parts against the severe mountain chill.
  • The grey, white coat with black spots is perfect for camouflaging the animal between the rocks and snow covered mountain peaks.
  • An estimated 4,000 to 6,500 snow leopards are left in the wild.
  • Poaching as well as habitat destruction are the main threats to the survival of these leopards.

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Natural Disaster or Cost of Ecological Sins?

Image courtesy National Geographic

About Atula Gupta

Atula Gupta is the Founder and Editor of Her work has appeared in a number of international websites, dailies and magazines including The Wire, Deccan Herald, New Indian Express, Down to Earth and Heritage India on issues related to environment and its conservation. She is also the author of Environment Science Essentials, a set of books for school children. She hopes this website provides a platform for people to be aware about species in the verge of extinction and heighten their conservation efforts.

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