March 27, 2009 1:42:33 am
As the pre-project stage gets underway in the state,the first-ever census of snow leopards is being conducted by the National Conservation Foundation (NCF),a non-government organisation. So far,only the head count of snow leopards is as per estimates,that put the numbers at around 400.
After the snow leopard was identified as a highly endangered species in Himachal,over a year ago,the state government had taken an initiative to declare it as the state animal as it is the most important species of the mountain region and is at the apex of the ecological pyramid. Though its habitat is in the upper reaches (above 3,000 metres) of Himachal,one of the main issues to be tackled by conservationists would remain man-animal conflict and protection of the ecology of its natural habitat. Conservation with community participation is expected to be the focus of the project and resident communities as well as the nomadic communities such as Ban Gujjars would also be involved in sensitisation towards the conservation of the animal.
Chief Wildlife Warden A K Gupta said,The survey work of NCF in Spiti valley,where over 1,000 square metres of biological strategic landscape would be first identified for conservation,has started. In a phased manner,the project would be extended to Pangi in Lahaul,Kinnaur,Bharmour in upper Chamba,Bara Bhangal in upper Kangra,Mantalai,Pin Parvati,upper great Himalayan National Park,upper Manali under upper Kullu and Rupi Bhabha and Dodra Kwar in upper Shimla district.
Project Snow Leopard,launched by the Centre,would accord the snow leopard the same status of importance in areas of high altitude,as has been allotted to the tiger in the terrestrial landscape. Starting from village wildlife conservation committees and landscape-level implementation committees,the network of conservation would be headed by a state-level committee in which the wildlife department is contemplating involving all stakeholder departments such as agriculture,animal husbandry and horticulture.
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