Spl zones planned to protect snow leopardsThe government is planning to establish a special snow leopard zone by dividing the mountain landscapes in three categories in an effort to conserve the endangered wild cat.
The government is planning to establish a special snow leopard zone by dividing the mountain landscapes in three categories in an effort to conserve the endangered wild cat.
The announcement of the new programme has come amid the growing threats and challenges to snow leopard conservation. As per the 2009 estimate, Nepal is home to around 300-500 snow leopards covering an area of 30,000 square kilometres.
Considering that the degradation and depletion of the mountain habitats are among the major challenges in snow leopard conservation, the government is working to formulate the programme that will work on mountain landscape-level conservation programme in three different stretches—Kanchanjunga range to Ganesh Himal, Manaslu to Dhaulagiri range and Kaligandaki to Api Nampa. ‘There are scores of threats and challenges in snow leopard conservation from human activities and nature-induced changes, including climate change,” said Forest Minister Shankar Bhandari while addressing the inaugural session of the international meeting of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme (GSLEP) in Kathmandu on Tuesday.
“Habitat loss and fragmentation, loss of prey species, poaching, illegal trade, human-wildlife conflict and lack of awareness among locals have pushed these species towards extinction,” he said, adding that the rugged mountain terrain and rugged topography that serve as the major habitats for these endangered species, make the conservation of these elusive cat species more challenging.
Nepal has listed the snow leopard among the 26 protected mammals and has accorded high priority to biodiversity conservation. As per the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973, anyone found engaged in poaching or illegal trade of snow leopard or its body parts is subjected to a fine of Rs100,000 or five to fifteen years of imprisonment or both.
During the two-day Planning and Stocktaking Workshop of the GSLEP, attended by ministers and high-level delegates from 12-snow leopard range countries, the participants shared about their country-specific experiences and challenges in leopard conservation and discussed ways to enhance regional collaboration and cooperation in research and conservation-oriented activities at local, regional and global levels.
The global snow leopard population is estimated to be between 3,000 and 5,000 in 12 range countries—Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
ELEGANT AND ELUSIVE
- - The elegant and well-camouflaged snow leopard is one of the world’s most elusive cats. Thinly spread across 12 countries in central Asia, it’s at home in high, rugged mountain landscapes. But poaching and climate change are now threatening its survival.
- The snow leopard has a beautiful, spotted coat, thick enough to insulate them from the cold. Their wide, fur-covered feet distribute their weight over soft snow, like natural snowshoes.
- Snow leopards are solitary creatures, and very successful predators, able to kill prey up to three times their own weight. But poaching and conflict with people have reduced their numbers. They’re suspected to have declined by at least 20% in under two decades–although estimating populations is tricky because these cats are so elusive!