A rare appearance of snow leopard recently shifted focus back to the wild cat’s shifting habitat and its unknown census in Kashmir.
KASHMIR’S wildlife department is optimist about the Snow Leopard Project after the wild cat was spotted in the snowbound central and northern fringes of the valley.
The recent rare appearance in Kashmir jungles makes many believe that it is a new wild beginning in the region’s restive woods.
Listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), snow leopards were seen beyond Razdan Pass in Gurez and in Sonamarg.
Before a survey of the Mountain Wildlife Division of SKAUST Kashmir would confirm their Kashmir presence, the wild cats were majorly found in Ladakh region.
The appearance is likely to lead to a second stage — census of snow leopards in Kashmir.
The ‘cousins’ of these wild cats are found in the higher and trans-Himalayan landscape at an altitude between 3,000 and 5,400 meters.
According to a research by Supriya Bhatt, India’s leopard population has declined by 75-90% over the years due to threats such as the depletion of prey population, destruction of habitat, human-leopard conflict, and poaching.
Before this new addition in Kashmir jungles, its cousin would regularly become news in the routine human-wildlife conflict.
Experts say the maximum human-wildlife conflict in the valley is because of the proximity of humans with leopard and bear.
A study conducted by University of Kashmir found out that the fencing of Line of Control (LOC) has fragmented natural habitat resulting in the hindrance of wild animal movements across the line, consequently, they are heading towards human settlements adjoining areas.
“Widespread conversion of the biodiversity-rich habitats into land for cultivation and human habitation has resulted in extensive habitat loss for wildlife including leopard,” mentions the study by Athar Noor on the density of leopard in the forest of Dachigam National Park and north-western Himalaya.
The research found out that the leopard density estimates recorded from the study area turned out to be the lowest in India.
“The low densities of prey represent an alarming status of the species as well as of forest ecosystems of the study area,” notes the research.
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