Elusive snow leopard sighted at 19 locations in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh in India

Snow Leopard in its habitat (GFDL - 1.2)
Snow Leopard in its habitat (GFDL – 1.2)

For the first time, rarely-sighted snow leopards — an adult and two cubs — have been documented on camera in the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP), situated in Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

The elusive snow leopards, the state animal of Himachal Pradesh, were spotted multiple times last winter in Lahaul-Spiti district along human habitations and their videos recorded by residents of Hikkim village had gone viral on social media early this year. They are generally found above the altitude of 4,000 meters in summers and descend a bit lower during the winter season.

Wildlife experts used to lay special trap cameras in the high altitude isolated areas of Spiti valley (Lahaul-Spiti district), far away from villages, to capture the movement of snow leopards.

Now, similar cameras have captured a grown-up snow leopard at 19 locations in Kullu district’s Great Himalayan National Park, a World Heritage site, and it is accompanied by cubs at two locations. This is the first documented sighting of a snow leopard at multiple spots in the national park, leading to confirmation that the endangered cat is breeding safely not only in Lahaul-Spiti district but also 80kms away in Kullu district too.

Ajit Thakur, director, GHNP, said 40 camera traps were installed at different locations in the sanctuary last year (2019). “The snow leopard was captured between October and December. We started analysis of the footage after March. We were successful in capturing the elusive big cat at 19 locations. At one location, the grown-up snow leopard is accompanied by two cubs and at one location it is accompanied by one cub,” he said.

Wildlife researchers and photographers spend years to take a photograph of one snow leopard and the conservation experts are highly enthused about the photographs of three snow leopards together. There have been multiple claims of sightings of snow leopards in the national park, but their presence has been recorded on cameras for the first time along with proof of their breeding in the area.

Thakur added that the Himachal wildlife department is extremely happy after getting clear evidence of the presence of the snow leopards in the sanctuary. “Presence of cubs with an adult suggests that snow leopards are possibly breeding in the area. This is just a preliminary survey by the wildlife department and Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF). The analysis of the footage of the camera traps is still continuing.” (Times of India)