The elusive snow leopard was always heard to be roaming around the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve in Uttarakhand. Villagers claimed that had seen the animal. Pugmarks and faeces also gave evidence of its existence but it was only recently that a camera placed in the reserve finally captured an image of the beast and gave definite proof of its existence in the state’s Himalayan ecosystem.

It was more than 10 years ago that local herders had spotted some pugmarks and seen faeces of the animal. They claimed it to belong to a snow leopard but without visual sighting it was hard to confirm. Finally a camera placed in the Malari region of Uttarakhand captured the image of the adult snow leopard.

“We suspected it was here, now we know for sure,” said Sambandam Sathyakumar, a senior scientist specialising in endangered species management at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun.

It was his idea to install the cameras in the likely trails of snow leopards and other animals roaming in the forest.

Since December last year the camera has successfully captured images of common leopards, blue sheep, musk deer, foxes and a Himalayan pheasant — and then, on April 10, a snow leopard.

The Snow Leopard Trust, a US-based conservation agency, estimates that India has between 200 and 600 snow leopards scattered across Jammu and Kashmir’s snowy mountain region, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand’s Himalayan region, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

First Picture of the Snow Leopard

The snow leopard in a very shy animal and scientist believe that there may be more snow leopards in the area. The last spotting of the animal in India was recorded to be made in April 2009. World Wildlife Fund researcher Aiswariya Maheshwari was the lucky one to sight it.

She later wrote in her log, “It was the shortest seven minutes of my life.”

The declining number of the animal might have been due to troubles in Kashmir and also the reduced number of wild goats, but now the Uttarakhand government is eager to make amends and revitalise its conservation efforts.

“The Uttarakhand government now plans an elaborate protection and management of habitat for the snow leopard in the high Himalayan regions of Uttarakhand to safeguard the feline. The state will try and estimate the population with cameras,” said Shrikand Chandola, chief conservator of forests in the state.

-Atula Gupta

Article source: TelegraphIndia

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About Atula Gupta

Atula Gupta is the Founder and Editor of indiasendangered.com. 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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