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India’s Snow Leopard, Population, Habitat, Conservation Status

Context: India has an estimated 718 snow leopards in the wild, as per the recently released report of the Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI).

About Snow Leopards

  • Scientific Name: Panthera uncia
  • Alternate Name: Lama in the Lisu dialect and is also called ‘Lamaphu’.
  • Top predator in the food web (in mountain ecosystem).

Conservation Status of Snow Leopards

  • IUCN: Vulnerable.
  • CITES and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS): Appendix I in Endangered Species.
  • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule-I.

Habitat of Snow Leopards

  • Globally: It inhabits alpine and subalpine zones at elevations of 3,000–4,500 m (9,800–14,800 ft), ranging from eastern Afghanistan, the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau to southern Siberia, Mongolia and western China.
  • In India: Different parts of the Himalayas such as Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Threats: From free-ranging dogs, human-wildlife conflicts, and poaching.
Important Facts
  • Population of Snow Leopards- Statewise:
    • Ladakh– 477
    • Uttarakhand– 124 animals
    • Himachal Pradesh– 51
    • Sikkim– 21
    • Jammu and Kashmir– 9
  • The current estimate puts the number of Indian snow leopards between 10% and 15% of the global population.

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About Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI)

  • First Scientific Exercise: The SPAI is the inaugural scientific assessment dedicated to estimating the snow leopard population in India.
  • National Coordination: The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) served as the National Coordinator for the SPAI, with support from snow leopard range states and conservation partners including the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysuru, and WWF-India.
  • Extensive Coverage: The assessment systematically covered over 70% of the potential snow leopard habitats in India, spanning approximately 120,000 km² across the trans-Himalayan region, including the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir, and the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Initiation: 2019-2023 (4-year Exercise).
  • Importance of Report: Before 2016, the snow leopard range in India was largely undefined, with minimal research covering about one-third of the potential range.
    • The SPAI has significantly enhanced understanding, providing preliminary information for 80% of the range.

Suggestive Measures Highlighted In The SPAI Report

  • Need for a Snow Leopard Cell: Establishment of a dedicated Snow Leopard Cell at the WII under the MoEFCC, focusing on long-term population monitoring and consistent field surveys.
  • Periodic Population Estimation: States and UTs adopt a periodic population estimation approach, conducting assessments every fourth year to gather insights, address threats, and formulate effective conservation strategies for snow leopards.

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I, Sakshi Gupta, am a content writer to empower students aiming for UPSC, PSC, and other competitive exams. My objective is to provide clear, concise, and informative content that caters to your exam preparation needs. I strive to make my content not only informative but also engaging, keeping you motivated throughout your journey!

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