October 23, 2019 5:15 pm

Countries Must Strive To Double Snow Leopard Population: India

NEW DELHI - Countries must strive to double the population of snow leopards in the next 10 years, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Wednesday while launching the first national protocol to enumerate the endangered species' population.

Addressing the inaugural session of the 4th Steering Committee Meeting of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) Program here to mark the International Snow Leopard Day, Javadekar said it was time to think about green economy and cross-country cooperation for the conservation of wildlife.

The snow leopard enumeration protocol, the first of its kind in the country, has been developed by scientific experts in association with states home to these rare big cats -- Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

"We will strive to double the snow leopards' population in the world in the coming decade. This two-day conference is important because discussions, deliberations, cooperation and learning from each other and sharing the best practices will benefit us all. Therefore, we can conserve nature in a better way and we can do positive work collectively," Javadekar said.

"We must start thinking about capacity building, livelihood, green economy, and green pathway even in the snow leopard areas of the Himalayan range and cross-country cooperation," he said.

The International Snow Leopard Day is celebrated on October 23 every year to create awareness about protection and conservation of snow leopards.

Citing the recent census reports of tigers, lions, elephants and rhinoceros, the Union minister said he was happy that 2,967 tigers live in India, which is 77 per cent of the world tiger population.

India is also home to 500-plus lions, 30,000-plus elephants, 2,500-plus one-horned rhinos, he said.

According to sources, India may have 400-700 snow leopards across Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir.

Ladakh alone is home to nearly 400 snow leopards, the maximum in the country, according to an environment ministry official.

Speaking at the session, Environment Secretary C K Mishra stressed on the need to generate awareness and understand the value of snow leopards for the ecosystem.

"These conferences provide an opportunity to learn about the best practices of other countries. Discussions should centre around habitat and ecosystem. Better ecosystem and creating better habitat is what we should strive for," he said.

Snow leopards are found in 12 countries -- India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The two-day international meeting of the GSLEP Program will conclude on October 24. Ministers from Nepal, Russia, Kyrgyztan and Mongolia are participating in the meeting.

The GSLEP Program is an effort that seeks to address high-mountain development issues using the conservation of the charismatic and endangered snow leopard as a flagship.

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