For the first time, three snow leopards — one adult and two cubs — have been captured in camera traps installed in the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) in Kullu district of Himachal.
The camera traps have captured a grown-up snow leopard at 19 locations and it is accompanied by cubs at two locations. This is for the first time that snow leopard has been captured in camera at multiple spots along with cubs in the Great Himalayan National Park. However, a snow leopard was captured by a team of research scholars from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, in 2017 in the mid-hills. This time the department has documented proofs in the shape of many photos which confirm that the endangered big cat is breeding safely not only in Lahaul-Spiti district but also in Kullu.
Great Himalayan National Park director Ajit Thakur said the 40 camera traps were installed at different locations inside the sanctuary area last year. “The snow leopard was captured between October and December. We started analysis of the footage after March. We were successful in capturing the elusive big cat at 19 locations. At one location, the grown-up snow leopard is accompanied by two cubs and at one location it is accompanied by one cub,” he said.
Wildlife researchers and photographers spend years to take a photo of one snow leopard. The wildlife department capturing three snow leopards together is being considered a big achievement as it will go a long way in various conservation programmes.
Thakur added that wildlife wing of Himachal is extremely happy after the clear evidences of the presence of the snow leopards in the sanctuary. “Presence of cubs with adult suggests that snow leopards are possibly breeding in the area. This is just a preliminary survey by wildlife department and nature conservation foundation (NCF). Analysis of the camera traps is still continuing.”
Great Himalayan National Park, a world heritage site, is home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna including many rare and endangered species. Many have claimed to have sighted snow leopards inside the national park before this too, but this is for the first time that department has proof of its presence along with evidence of its breeding.
As many as 832 species of flora and 386 species of fauna have been identified inside the national park area. It includes rarest Himalayan blue poppy, western tragopan and Himalayan tahr. The Great Himalayan National Park has now become a popular tourist destination where tourists come for bird watching, animal sighting, trekking and camping. Generally, tourists visit Ladakh and Spiti for snow leopard sighting.
The presence of the animal in Kullu is expected to boost tourism in the area. Meanwhile, wildlife department is continuing with its further study on behaviour and habitats of the animal which generally is found above an altitude of 4,000m in summers and descends down in winters.