Snow leopard
Representational Image

SRINAGAR — Amid ongoing population assessment of snow leopards in Jammu & Kashmir, for the first time through a “camera trap” sighting, the elusive animal has been officially documented in Kishtwar, an official said on Tuesday.

Regional Wildlife Warden Jammu, Dr M K Kumar told the news agency KNO that despite being aware of the presence of snow leopards in the area, they have captured the sight of the animal for the first time on three occasions through a “camera trap”.

“On three occasions, we have spotted the animal through a camera trap, and on the first occasion, two were spotted in a single frame, and on the second and third occasions, one was present,” he said, adding that this happened for the first time.

Stating that J&K too falls under the component of nationwide population assessment for the snow leopards, Dr Kumar said that the assessment of the population of the animal is taken up through a multi-layered approach, which includes the assessment of habitats through questioners and landscape patterns.

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“The process involves a multi-layered approach, after zeroing in on the potential hotspot, the installation of cameras takes place for the direct sighting of the animal and we have worked our own grid system laying with a target of 100 to 100 km and then laid camera traps accordingly,” the Wildlife warden said.

He said the population assessment of the animal started in 2021-22 and that before drawing any conclusion, they would require one full winter and summer to make any valuations. Citing inaccessibility to some areas, he said they cannot afford to miss any area without sampling and have to ensure the coverage.

“Currently, we cannot speculate on the population of snow leopards. We are in the mid-process of documentation, and this process involves not only camera trapping but also multiple computer-based programming and parameters,” he said.

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As the snow leopard was sighted on camera in Kashmir in the upper reaches of the Baltal-Zojila area – the high mountains of the Himalayas – last year in November, Dr Kumar said there is high potential for the presence of snow leopards in the Tatakuti landscape in Poonch-Rajouri area. “However, we have not done any research in that particular area,” he added.

It is pertinent to mention that in 2021, the Wildlife Protection authorities in Jammu & Kashmir started a population census of snow leopards as part of the nationwide population assessment of the elusive species. It was carried out on the directions of the Ministry of the Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).

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