Habitat: They have a vast but fragmented distribution across the mountainous landscape of central Asia, which covers different parts of the Himalayas such as Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim.
Threat: Largely threatened because of the loss of natural prey species, retaliatory killing due to conflict with humans, and illegal trade of its fur and bones.
The Snow leopard is a globally endangered species about which little is known.
Merely 7,500 are estimated to be surviving over an area of two million square kilometers in the Himalayas and Central Asian mountains, and all over they are facing tremendous human pressures.
India is perhaps home to 10 % of the global population in less than 5% of its global range, thus having a substantial proportion of its global population.
Conservation efforts of Snow Leopard by India
The Government of India has identified the snow leopard as a flagship species for the high-altitude Himalayas.
India is also party to the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) Programme since 2013.
HimalSanrakshak: It is a community volunteer programme, to protect snow leopards, launched in October 2020.
In 2019, First National Protocol was also launched on Snow Leopard Population Assessment which has been very useful for monitoring populations.
SECURE Himalaya:Global Environment Facility (GEF)-United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funded the project on the conservation of high-altitude biodiversity and reducing the dependency of local communities on the natural ecosystem.
Project Snow Leopard (PSL): It was launched in 2009 to promote an inclusive and participatory approach to conserving snow leopards and their habitat.
India has identified three large landscapes, namely, Hemis-Spiti across Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh; Nanda Devi – Gangotri in Uttarakhand; and Khangchendzonga – Tawang across Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
The Snow Leopard conservation breeding programme is undertaken at Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling, West Bengal.
Global Conservation efforts
In 2013, the Bishkek Declaration set a goal of protecting at least 20 snow leopard landscapes with viable snow leopard populations by 2020.
It led to the formation of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP).
The GSLEP is a high-level inter-governmental alliance of all the 12 snow leopard range countries. It majorly focuses on the need for awareness and understanding of the value of Snow Leopard to the ecosystem
Every year, October 23 is observed as International Snow Leopard Day since 2014.
The day commemorates the anniversary of the Bishkek Declaration and celebrates this endangered cat and raises awareness for its conservation and protection.
Living Himalaya Network Initiative is established as one of WWF’s global initiatives to bring about transformational conservation impact across the three Eastern Himalayan countries of Bhutan, India (North-East), and Nepal.
Objectives of LHI include adapting to climate change, connecting to habitat, and saving iconic species.
Project Snow Leopard
The Project Snow Leopard is an Indian initiative launched by MoEF&CC for strengthening wildlife conservationin the Himalayan high altitudes.
It was launched in 2009 in 5 states of the country namely J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand to promote an inclusive and participatory approach to conserving snow leopards and their habitat.
Goal:To safeguard and conserve India’s unique natural heritage of high-altitude wildlife populations and their habitats by promoting conservation through participatory policies and actions.
It aims to promote a knowledge-based and adaptive conservation framework that fully involves the local communities, who share the snow leopard’s range, in conservation efforts.
Project Snow Leopard is designed for all biologically important habitats within the snow leopard’s range, irrespective of their ownership (e.g. Protected Areas, common land, etc.).