Snow Leopards Discovered in Chenab Valley Region, Jammu and Kashmir

Snow Leopards

A team of scientists discovered snow leopards in the Chenab Valley part of Jammu and Kashmir. The presence was found to be in the Kishtwar High Altitude National Park in the Chenab Valley region. The discovery sparks discussion due to India’s current low snow leopard population. The discovery is expected to boost the snow leopard conservation initiatives happening in the country.

Snow leopards are thought to be a group of apex predators. However, the declining number of snow leopards in India has made conservation efforts necessary. The central government, various other state governments, and wildlife organizations have been trying to increase the population of snow leopards in the country. It is against this background that the current discovery of snow leopards has caused much joy among wildlife enthusiasts.

Snow leopards are a flagship species in parts of High Mountain Asia. Their highlighted presence as an apex predator benefits the general ecosystem. According to experts, any decline in the natural population of snow leopards adversely affects the rest of the ecosystem.

According to various statistics, India hosts at least 2% of the global snow leopard population. However, the population has gradually declined across multiple parts of India. This alarming state has called for conservation efforts. 

Currently, India has about 718 snow leopards. However, not all of them live in protected environments. Most live in unprotected parts of the country, where they are constantly subjected to poaching. The absence of a legally protected land for most of these snow leopards holds them close to destruction. 

Wildlife experts have pointed out that there are no proper counting programs for snow leopards. The official counting of snow leopards is mainly limited to Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, and Uttarakhand. This inadequacy in counting makes it challenging to trace the country’s breeding pattern of snow leopards.

Snow leopards are generally found in the mountainous regions of southern and central Asia. As of now, 12 countries have observed the presence of snow leopards in them. The snow leopard population in India is found in regions under the western and eastern Himalayas. In the western Himalayas, the popular areas are Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh, whereas in the eastern Himalayas, the famous places are Sikkim, Uttarakhand, and Arunachal Pradesh. 

The Hemis National Park of Ladakh is known as the snow leopard capital. Some other major sites in India that have witnessed the presence of snow leopards are Great Himalayan National Park and Gangotri National Park. Snow leopards are protected under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. 

The Government of India has introduced numerous conservation schemes and projects for snow leopards, such as Project Snow Leopard and the GSLEP Programme. 

The Kishtwar High Altitude National Park is in the Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir. It connects the greater Himalayas, trans-Himalayas, and lesser Himalayas. The national park is famous as the natural home of Himalayan musk deer. The discovery of snow leopards in the park makes it a potential snow leopard habitat.