The endangered and reclusive snow leopard has found a safe habitat for breeding in the cold desert of Spiti in India’s hill state of Himachal Pradesh (HP) going by the spurt in its sightings here in recent years.
But a resident of Langza village and some tourists got the biggest surprise when they sighted and photographed three snow leopards together near Komic village.
Forest officials said this was a first-of-its-kind sighting of the wild cat. Conservation organisations have put the number of the big cat at between 4,500 and 7,500 in the world today, spread over 12 countries. Forest officials said that the animals were frequently being sighted in Spiti valley but they are generally spotted in singles. They are being sighted mostly near Kibbar, Komic, Hikkim and Demul areas. “The three snow leopards were sighted together this February (2017) near Komic village. Many tourists are visiting Spiti only to get a glimpse of this animal and most of them get a sighting,” said Tashi Palzor of Langza village. The valley has now become popular for snow leopard expeditions.
“There is no doubt that the snow leopard is thriving here,” said Devinder Singh Chauhan, range officer (wildlife) at Spiti. “Frequent sightings suggest that the cat’s population is increasing.”
The department will soon radio-collar the leopards to study their behaviour. A conservation and study centre is under construction at Kibbar village. Project Snow Leopard is already running since 2010.
Recently in February an old snow leopard died in Kibbar village. The leopard, which was not even able to move, was taken care of by the villagers before it died.
Sources said snow leopards have been sighted very close to villages and even Kaza town. Killing or harming wild ibex and blue sheep is considered a religious sin in Spiti. This has resulted in increase in the population of these animals, which are prime prey for snow leopards. Experts believe snow leopards are getting their prey in the area easily, which is helping them thrive. (Times of India)