Nature conservation group World Wildlife Fund India on Thursday said it had found photographic evidence of the snow leopard species in Arunachal Pradesh. This perhaps is the first time that the presence of snow leopard has been reported through a camera trap photograph from the state of Arunachal Pradesh,” Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Principal Secretary, Department of Environment and Forest (Arunachal Pradesh), Omkar Singh said.

WWF India said that the species was photographed by a camera set up at Thembang, one of the Community Conserved Areas in the state. A Community Conserved Area in India is a region governed by local communities.

The WWF India said that only a small percentage of the snow leopard habitat in the state falls under two protected areas – the Dibang Biosphere Reserve and the Namdapha National Park. It added that the presence of the snow leopard beyond the protected areas “highlights the importance of community support for conservation”.

Camera trap image of a snow leopard. (Photo credit: WWF India)

The snow leopard was photographed during a state-wide survey carried out by WWF India from March 2017. The survey was conducted in collaboration with the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department, focusing on the unexplored areas for wildlife.

Researchers conducting the survey had interviewed local youth, herders and former hunters in the Community Conserved Areas of Arunachal Pradesh, who provided information on snow leopards across the state. Over 80% of the respondents confirmed the presence of snow leopards in their area, WWF India said.

WWF India said the survey findings would enable the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department to develop a snow leopard conservation plan. “This ambitious survey has enhanced our knowledge on the distribution of snow leopards and its prey species for the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh,” said Rishi Kumar Sharma, the senior coordinator for the Species and Landscapes programme of WWF India. “This will be of immense help in the better conservation-management of the species.”