On the occasion of World Environment Day on Wednesday, officials of the Gaurishankhar Conservation Area have revealed photographs of a snow leopard, confirming the animal’s presence in the forests of Dolakha. Snow leopards are on the endangered species list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The stills were captured on a camera trap installed at Lapchi Valley in Bigu Rural Municipality-1, which is inside the Gaurishankar Conservation Area, on November 11, 2018. The images show a snow leopard in midwalk with his head and upper body in the frame.
Narayan Prasad Koju, who was involved in the research and investigation of snow leopards in Nepal, said, “We had several cameras in operation for 200 hours straight in order to capture photographic evidence of the presence of snow leopards in the area. However, we don’t have a video footage available.” According to him, they used camera-trapping methodology to study snow leopards in the region.
The infrared cameras were installed in 11 different places of Lapchi, at an altitude of 4,087 metres, from mid-September 2018 to mid-May 2019.
Bishnu Pandey, a conservation officer involved in the project, said, “We are happy to share the photos with the public on World Environment Day. Our cameras have also captured pictures of golden cat and 15 other species of mammals.” With photographic evidence, conservationists say the area can be declared as a snow leopard habitat, although the exact number of their population is not confirmed. However, pawprints, digging traces and faeces of snow leopards in the conservation area point towards their number being around three to five at present.
Nepal is one of the 12 countries where snow leopards are found. The estimated population of snow leopard is between 350-500 in Nepal. However, the country has not conducted any census of the animal.
Conservationists said that the number of snow leopard is declining due to habitat loss and increased poaching activities. Snow leopard, which lives around 5,000-6,000 metres above sea level, is considered a solitary animal.
According to WWF Nepal, snow leopard’s presence can be expected in eight protected areas of the country—Annapurna Conservation Area, Shey Phoksundo National Park, Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, Manaslu Conservation Area, Makalu Barun National Park, Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, Sagarmatha National Park and Langtang National Park.