On 21st October, Resources Himalaya Foundation (RHF) and Environmental Graduates in the Himalaya (EGH) successfully celebrated ‘The International Snow Leopard Day 2020’. They had organized an online talk program entitled ‘Ecology of Fear: Snow Leopard-Mountain Ungulates and Humans Communities in the Nepalese Himalayan’. The program conveyed the sheer effort on conservation of one of the rarest wild cats; the Snow Leopard.
Mr. Kamal Thapa, a Ph.D. scholar from the Institute of Forestry, T.U who had led the project ‘Tracking Snow Leopards of Nepal’ and dedicated his 21 years for the conservation of snow leopard was invited for sharing his experience with the emerging conservationists. The program was completed with almost 50 participants and a good round of discussions.
The session included a discussion on the biology, the ecology of snow leopard, and how nearby communities can directly be linked with snow leopard conservation. The speaker gave his insights on Ecology of Fear, Evolution and Subspecies, Global Distribution and Status of Snow Leopard.
The Snow Leopard is believed to be the hybrid of a lion and jaguar having mainly 3 subspecies Panthera uncia uncia in the Pamir Mountains, P.u. uncioides in Himalayas & Qinghai, and P.u. irbis in Mongolia. 4500-7500 individuals of Snow leopard are found across 12 central Asian Countries with 301-400 individuals found in Nepal across potential habitat of 13,000 sq. km. Recently, its status has been upgraded to vulnerable from endangered.
The snow leopard is a reclusive animal that prefers to live a very secretive way of life in rocky mountains. So, it’s hard to estimate their exact number. Western, Annapurna-Manaslu, and Eastern Complex are the conservation complex established in Nepal for its conservation where Manang is estimated to have its highest population in Nepal.
Density, anti-predator behavior of prey, seasonal diet, and people’s perception on its conservation were also discussed. There seem to be multiple threats associated with species like retaliatory killing and poaching. The trend of Yarshyagumba (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) collection has also resulted in excessive anthropogenic activities creating challenges for its conservation while glacier ice melting being a major challenge.
However, in recent times, various community-based conservation initiatives along with regular monitoring have improved its status. Commitment to thrive at least 50 breeding snow leopards in each conservation complex has been made by GON by 2020 but the data is not updated due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, it is estimated that we are near to our goal.
“Guardian of the Mountains”- Snow leopard’s presence is a matter of pride to Nepal and the contribution as citizen scientists, with prioritizing conservation education, and funding more of scientific research can’t be undermined for its imminent conservation.
For a full online ”International Snow Leopard Day” celebration video by Mr. Kamal Thapa sir on zoom meeting organized by Resource Himalayan Foundation (RHF) Click here.