Express News Service
DEHRADUN: The Uttarakhand forest department will start a snow leopard count in November covering over 12,800 sq km of area spreading across 10 forest divisions where the elusive species is found. The entire survey area will be divided into 80 grids for the exercise to be done in four phases.
“The first phase will involve a field survey of all these grids while the second phase in March- April next year will again cover the entire area. In the third phase, 150 camera traps will be installed followed by segregation of data by field survey and camera traps,” said Uttarakhand chief wildlife warden JS Suhag.
The results of the survey, which was delayed by the Covid pandemic, will be out by November next year. Locals, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Army will be kept in loop given their locations and camps near the possible habitat of the elusive cat whose numbers are estimated to be around 86 in Uttarakhand.
“The counting will help us plan better for conservation of this species as well as others which co-exist with it,” said Suhag. In Uttarakhand, snow leopards are found in Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Gangotri National Park, Askot Wildlife Sanctuary and other places at an altitude between 3000 and 4500 meters.
Due to its reclusive nature, the snow leopard has earned the sobriquet of ‘Ghost of the Mountains’. India has identified three landscapes — Spiti in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, Gangotri-Nanda Devi in Uttarakhand, and Kanchendzonga- Tawang in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh — for habitat conservation of snow leopards.