22 Nov 2019

Snow leopards

Source: The Hindu

Manifest pedagogy: Under IUCN list of vulnerable animals Snow Leopard is one. All such animals/birds which are news are of importance for Prelims.

In news: State of Snow leopards

Placing it in syllabus: Wildlife conservation

Dimensions:

  • Facts about snow leopard
  • Threats
  • Conservation efforts in India and across world

Content:

Facts about Snow Leopard:

The snow leopard (also called ounce) is found in high mountains of 12 countries of Central Asia.

  • It usually solitary and highly elusive.
  • In September 2017, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had downgraded conservation status of snow leopard to “vulnerable” from “endangered”.
  • Some snow leopards have home ranges of up to 1,000 square kilometers.
  • Snow leopards are not known to be aggressive toward humans.
  • It is National Heritage Animal of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Threats to Snow leopard:

  • Poaching: According to 2016 data, one 220 to 450 cats are killed and traded per year. 
  • Its main prey species, Wild sheep and goat are also threatened by illegal or unsustainable hunting in many parts of the snow leopard range. If their populations decline, so do the snow leopard’s.
  • As more and more domestic animals find their way into the snow leopard’s habitat, the cat occasionally preys on them and kills them. To protect their herds and livelihoods, herders sometimes kill snow leopards in retribution.
  • Mining and other large-scale development in mountain ranges pose a threat to its habitat.
  • Temperatures are on the rise across the mountains of Central Asia and this climate change threatens to make up to a third of the snow leopard’s habitat unusable.

Conservation efforts in India and the world:

The conservation of snow leopards is complex and involves various stakeholders such as governments, tourism departments and local communities.

  • World Wildlife fund (WWF) focuses on reducing human-leopard conflict and rural development, stopping mining in fragile snow leopard habitat.
  • It supports mobile anti poaching activities.
  • It works together with TRAFFIC, to eliminate the illegal trade of snow leopard fur, bones and other body parts.
  • It works with local communities to monitor snow leopards and reduce retaliatory killing of them through innovative local insurance plans.
  • WWF has developed and launched Third Pole GeoLab, an interactive web-based tool and database for snow leopard conservation, climate change, and water security issues in Asia’s high mountains.
  • The USAID-funded, $7.3 million Conservation and Adaptation in Asia’s High Mountain Landscapes and Communities project will conduct field activities in and build alliances among six of the snow leopard’s 12 range countries – Bhutan, India, Nepal, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and Pakistan. 

Snow Leopard Trust is a non-profit organisation in Washington which is working towards Snow Leopard conservation.

  • It has constituted Snow Leopard Enterprises, a conservation-focused handicrafts brand that helps create sustainable economic opportunities for families in snow leopard habitat and reduce the motivation behind poaching. 
  • Their livestock insurance program helps rural communities reduce the financial impact of snow leopard predation.
  • The livestock vaccination and ecosystem health program helps offers vaccines and animal husbandry trainings in snow leopard communities. 
  • It runs environmental education programs for children and adults in the outdoor eco-camps and Nature Clubs.

Project Snow Leopard:

  • It was launched in 2009 to safeguard and conserve India’s unique natural heritage of high altitude wildlife populations and their habitats by promoting conservation through participatory policies and actions.
  • It has been catalyzed by Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) and involves government and non-governmental stakeholders from the states. 
  • The strategy document stresses on knowledge based, landscape level and participatory management of wildlife in the region.
  • Each of the five range states – Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh will identify one landscape under the project.
  • Surveys will be conducted to identify multiple ‘cores’ where human use will be minimized, harmonized or completely stopped in a consultative process with the community.
  • The project will include representation from the village cluster-level up to a steering committee at the central-level.