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Plan to radio collar six snow leopards

The Wildlife Wing of the Forest Department in collaboration with the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), Mysore, will undertake the country’s first comprehensive radio collaring of snow leopards. A decision has been taken to set up the Himalayan Snow Leopard Research Centre at Kibber village in Spiti under the Rs 5.15-crore conservation project.

The snow leopard project is being jointly implemented by the Wildlife wing of the Forest Department and the NCF, Mysore. It will be for the first time that radio collaring of snow leopard will be undertaken in the country. Snow leopards have so far been radio collared in Mongolia by the Snow Leopard Trust jointly with the Mongolian Government.

“The radio collaring of snow leopard will help study distribution, seasonal movement and ranging pattern of the animal and also give an estimation about the population size of the animal in the upper Spiti valley,” said Tarun Sridhar, Principal Secretary, Forest and Revenue. He said six snow leopards would be collared.

He said the Himalayan Snow Leopard Research Centre would be set up at Kibber village in Spiti. The research and training centre with necessary infrastructure for carrying out state-of-the-art research programmes would have proper laboratory and all other facilities, he said.

Research will be done to ascertain the area needed for each animal as per its age and sex and conflict and role of each individual snow leopard and primary threats faced by the animal.

In the past, there was only indirect evidence of the presence of snow leopards in the area in the form of pictures captured through trap cameras or their pug marks, which confirmed their presence in the area. The radio collaring of the animal will also help give an insight into prey availability, topography, disturbance and the ability of the animal to move across human and natural barriers.

Though no scientific estimation of snow leopard has been undertaken in the state, it is estimated that their strength could be below 20. Members of the Nature Conservation Foundation and staff of the Wildlife Wing had spotted two adult snow leopards close to Chichim village in Spiti, about two years ago. It is felt that by identifying and conserving the important areas inhabited by them, there could be an increase in their numbers.

The other aspects of the project is to understand the mechanism of snow leopard conflicts.

“Another important aspect of the project is to train and set up a proper monitoring programme for snow leopards to be implemented jointly by wildlife staff and local community representatives,” said officials.

The Tribune (06-12-2013)