Snow leopard :
• Snow leopard(Panther unica) as a State animal and black-necked crane(Grus nicricollis) as a State bird.
• Hemis National Park in Ladakh is the biggest national park in India and also has a good presence of Snow Leopard.
• Ladakh is the Snow Leopard capital of the world.
• World Snow Leopard Day is observed globally on 23rd October.
• India’s first Snow Leopard Conservation Centre is being set up in the Uttarkashi forest division of Uttarakhand.
• The Indian government has launched a community volunteer program “HimalSanrakshak” to protect snow leopards.
• Project Snow Leopard (PSL) was launched in 2009 to promote an inclusive and participatory approach to conserve snow leopards and their habitat.
• India is also part of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) Programme since 2013.
• Global Snow Leopard Forum was formed in 2013 by 12 countries encompassing the snow leopard’s range. The countries are Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
• Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program is a joint initiative of a range of country governments, international agencies, civil society, and the private sector. Its goal is to secure the long-term survival of the snow leopard in its natural ecosystem.
• In 2013, the Bishkek Declaration was endorsed by the governments of twelve snow leopard range countries, to ensure that snow leopards and the people who live among them thrive in healthy ecosystems. [Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan].
• The Bishkek Declaration set a goal of protecting at least 20 snow leopard landscapes with viable snow leopard populations by 2020 and led to the formation of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP).
Habitat and Distribution :
• Snow leopards live in the mountainous regions of central and southern Asia.
• In India, their geographical range encompasses a large part of the western Himalayas including the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas.
• Snow leopards prefer steep, rugged terrains with rocky outcrops and ravines. This type of habitat provides good cover and a clear view to help them sneak up on their prey. They are found at elevations of 3,000-5,000 meters or higher in the Himalayas.
Conservation Status :
• Snow leopard, whose numbers are dwindling worldwide, has been categorized as “Vulnerable” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) Red List.
• It comes under Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
• It is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which makes trading of animal parts (fur, bones, etc..) illegal in signatory countries.
• It is also listed in the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), affording the highest conservation status to the species, both globally and in India.
• Loss of habitat and species.
• Reduction in prey populations.
• Illegal poaching and increased human population infiltration into the species habitat.
• Hunting of snow leopards for their fur and skin.
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