After the snow leopard was identified as a highly endangered species over a year ago,the Himachal Pradesh government declared it the state animal. A high-intensity conservation campaign for the animal was expected to follow. Today,as the Centre launched Project Snow Leopard for five states of the Himalayan region,including Himachal Pradesh,with an aim to conserve with community participation,the state had nothing to contribute.
The hype created around declaration of the snow leopard as state animal in October 2007 was huge,with the animal featuring on the state governments annual calendar. The State Wildlife department also published about 10,000 posters as a beginning of the conservation campaign of the animal. But everything seems to have come to a stop.
The first step towards the conservation was supposed to be a head count of the snow leopard in the state,but nothing happened on this front too. Guess estimates put the number around 400 in Himachal Pradesh.
Chief Wildlife Warden A K Gupta admitted that nothing constructive has been taken up for the conservation of the snow leopard so far,but now,with a special Central project,we hope to make a good beginning, he said.
Project Snow Leopard launched by the Centre today is expected to give the animal the same status of importance in areas of high altitude as has been allotted to the tiger in the terrestrial landscape.
Besides being endangered the world over,the snow leopard is also the most important flagship species of the mountain region and is at the apex of the ecological pyramid. The project document also states that it suffers the most on account of relatively smaller population size and also because of the man-animal conflict.
This is the reason it has been included in the list of species under recovery programme to be funded through the umbrella scheme of Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats.
Involvement of local communities would be managed through awareness and modifying grazing policies in the landscapes of conservation.
Under the project,the state-level Snow Leopard Conservation Society coordinated by the landscape-level implementation committees and village wildlife conservation committees,would be placed under direct control of the Central-level steering committee,chaired by Director General of Forests and Special Secretary.