Camera traps have provided the first ever tangible evidence of the endangered snow leopard in northern Sikkim, Livemint reported. Photographs of the protected species were caught at four separate locations as part of a pilot project being run by the World Wildlife Fund in India. A statement from WWF said camera traps have also captured other mountain animals including the rare pallas cat, blue sheep and Tibetan argali. Their evidence of the snow leopard, however, is likely to be a boost for the species' conservation.
The snow leopard is highly endangered and notoriously camera-shy. It inhabits the upper regions of the Himalayas and is thus difficult to track. Population estimates of the animal are hard to make because the snow leopard is often poached for its fur, besides its living in such inaccessible terrain. The camera traps for the WWF project were placed in the north Sikkim plateau. The WWF's study is to be implemented across Sikkim in different phases, and aims at filling in the gaps in knowledge about the species in the region.
The study is expected to be completed by 2017, and its baseline data will provide information on the status of the animal in Sikkim, its base of wild prey, and the threats it faces there. The International Union for Conservation of Nature puts the snow leopard’s population in its range countries – that includes India, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan, Nepal etc – at between 4,080 and 6,590. Of that, between 200-600 live in India.