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Snow Leopard Population Grows in India; Ladakh Has the Highest Numbers

Great news for India as the country conducted its first ever Snow Leopard census with the help of the Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI) Program. The study was conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the status report of Snow Leopards in India was released by Union Minister of Environment, Bhupendar Yadav during the National Board for Wildlife meet held in Delhi, India.

The recent survey calls for establishing a dedicated ‘Snow Leopard Cell’ at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) under the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC), to focus on long-term population monitoring.

The Census Report of Snow Leopard in India

Snow Leopard in India

Everyone might be curious to know how many snow leopards there are in India by now. The first scientific Snow Leopard survey in India shows the country is now home to 718 snow Leopards. The assessment was conducted from 2019 to 2023, in which a total number of 241 snow leopards were photographed. The survey covered diverse states of the Indian Himalayan region including Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Ladakh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh. The Snow Leopard range remained unidentified in India due to a lack of comprehensive nationwide assessments for this vulnerable species.

The data indicates that Ladakh has the highest number of snow leopards in India (477), followed by Himachal Pradesh (51), Arunachal Pradesh (36), Uttarakhand (124), Sikkim (21), and Jammu and Kashmir (9). The study covered around 120,000 sq km including 13,450 km of trails showing signs of snow leopards by deploying camera traps at 1,971 locations for 180,000 trap nights (one camera active each night).

State Name Number of Snow Leopards
Ladakh 477
Himachal Pradesh 51
Arunachal Pradesh 36
Uttarakhand 124
Sikkim 21
Jammu and Kashmir 9

Also Read: Best Places for Snow Leopard Sightings in India

Snow Leopard in Himalayas

Exhilarating news for India as it joins other snow leopard range countries in the world by estimating their Snow Leopard populations in North East region of India using several scientific and conserving methods under the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program’s (GSLEP) Population Assessment of the World’s Snow leopards (PAWS) initiative. Some other countries have published their PAWS surveys including Mongolia, Bhutan, and a couple of provinces of China.

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) was the national coordinator for the survey along with two conservation partners: the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysuru (Karnataka), and WWF-India. The Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI) covered over 70 percent of the potential snow leopard ranges in the country, involving forest & wildlife professionals, researchers, volunteers, and contributions from knowledge partners.

Strategies and Measures to Maintain India’s Snow Leopard Population

Snow Leopard Sighting in India

Preserving the population of Snow Leopards in India demands comprehensive strategies and measures. Strategies and measures to maintain these endangered species in India will include safeguarding and reviving important high-altitude habitats, implementing strong anti-poaching measures, communicating human-wildlife issues, raising conservation awareness among local communities of the region and ensuring that they benefit from these conservation initiatives.

From now on, states and union territories can consider adopting a periodic population approach in the snow leopard range for every coming 4th year.

About Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard Ladakh

Snow Leopards are high-altitude wildlife animals found in the alpine and subalpine zones, rocky areas, and high-altitude forests. This endangered species is generally located above elevations of 2,500 – 5,000 meters. During winter, the snow leopard comes down to the lower elevations and moves back up to the mountains and remote terrains during the summer months. The species become endangered throughout the last few years due to multiple threat issues including overgrazing, human wildlife conflict, poaching, free-ranging dogs, habitat degradation, and climate change impacts.

Worldwide, Snow Leopard populations are estimated to range between 3,000 to 7,000 and it is well known that China is home to this largest animal population. The Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme estimates the population of this species to be between 3,020 and 5,390 in 12 different countries including Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

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Published: 02 Feb, 2024 | Last Updated: 05 Feb, 2024

About the author

Moumita Kundu

Moumita Kundu is a dedicated writer and researcher covering topics related to travel, eco-friendly behavior, and sustainable living. She has turned her travel dreams into reality by penning travel blogs. Moumita writes with a creative flair, allowing her to share her insights and experiences. Beyond her talent as a writer, she harbors a genuine love for animals and those around her.