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- This project was launched in 2009 to safeguard and conserve India’s unique natural heritage of high-altitude wildlife populations and their habitats by promoting conservation through participatory policies and actions.
- It was launched in 2009 to promote an inclusive and participatory approach to conserve snow leopards and their habitat.
- Snow Leopard is in the list of 21 critically endangered species for the recovery programme of the Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change.
- Snow Leopard conservation breeding programme is undertaken at Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling, West Bengal.
Snow Leopard conservation in India:
- India has been conserving snow leopard and its habitat through the Project Snow Leopard (PSL).
- India is also party to the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) Programme since 2013.
- For conservation, India has identified three large landscapes, namely, Hemis-Spiti across Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh; Nanda Devi – Gangotri in Uttarakhand; and Khangchendzonga – Tawang across Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
- International Snow Leopard Day was observed on 23 October.
- The day came into being with the adoption of the Bishkek Declaration by 12 countries on the conservation of snow leopards.
- On this day this year, the Indian government has launched community volunteer programme “HimalSanrakshak” to protect snow leopards.
- The snow leopard inhabits the higher Himalayan and trans-Himalayan landscape in the five states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.
- This area contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard range.
- Snow leopards are categorized as ‘Vulnerable’ by IUCN and in the Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
- Top Predator: The Snow Leopard (also known as Ghost of the mountains) acts as an indicator of the health of the mountain ecosystem in which they live, due to their position as the top predator in the food web.
- Habitation: The Snow Leopard lives at high altitudes in the steep mountains of Central and Southern Asia, and in an extremely cold climate.
- Snow Leopard capital of the world: Hemis, Ladakh.
- Hemis National Park is the biggest national park of India and also has a good presence of Snow Leopard.
- Threat: Factors that have contributed to the decline in the snow leopard populations include, reduction in prey populations, illegal poaching and increased human population infiltration into the species habitat and illegal trade of wildlife parts and products among others.
IUCN Red List- Vulnerable
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)- Appendix I
- Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)- Appendix I
- Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction.
- Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972- Schedule I
- Schedule I provides absolute protection and offences under this have the highest penalties.
- Conservation status of the snow leopard was downgraded from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’
- To be considered an “endangered” species, the global populations have to be fewer than 2,500 mature adults.
- Additionally, the decline rate must also be over 20% in past decade.
- It was found that there are more than 2,500 mature adults in the world and the estimated decline rate is at least 10%.
- Snow leopard’s range extends for 2.8 million square kilometres and is spread acrpss 12 countries.
- It covers regions of – Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan.
- Research on the species, including estimates of its range, remains thin — and climate change poses a constant threat to its habitat.
- The current estimates based on expert knowledge place the population at between 4,000-6,500 globally, it is largely disputed.
- Hence, while the severity of threat is indeed imminent, it is only the technicalities that has pushed it to the Vulnerable category.
- Taxonomically, snow leopards belong to the family of cats called Felideae. However, until few years ago, it was not kept in the genus of Big cats (Panthera) and was named Uncia uncia.
- In recent times, it has been seen as one of the Big Cats, but still there is one difference between the snow leopard and other Big Cats such as Lion, Tiger and Leopard that – it does not roar, thanks to its different structure of vocal chords and absence of specially adapted larynx and hyoid apparatus.
Ladakh becoming role model in protecting Snow leopard
- The Ladakh region is setting an example for the rest of the country, to protect the endangered Snow Leopard. It is estimated that there are more than 400 wild cats within the Indian Territory in Ladakh.
- With the help of local people, the Wildlife Department and several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) succeeded in preventing man-animal conflict and discouraged killing of the exotic wild cats (or Snow leopards) found in Trans Himalayan-Karakorum mountains of the region and central Asia.
- Loss of Habitat and species
- Retribution killings
- Poaching of snow leopards
- Other anthropogenic activities
Project save our snow leopards (SOS)
- Project save our snow leopard SOS was launched in January 2014 by WWF India in partnership with Tata Housing Development company. The project Save Our snow Leopards (SOS) has been launched by unveiling the SOS online crowdfunding platform.
- Through this campaign, the WWF India and the Tata Housing Development company would build awareness about the conservation issues which the snow leopard are facing with the aim of raising at least 15,00,000 rupees through this platform.
- Sacred Himalayan Landscape
- Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary at Lahaul Spiti, Himachal Pradesh
- Pin Valley National Park at Lahaul Spiti, Himachal Pradesh
- Great Himalayan National Park at Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
- Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary, near Anini, Arunachal Pradesh
- Hemis National Park, in Ladakh- Jammu and Kashmir
- Livestock insurance: insurance cover is provided for the livestock in the snow leopard habitat to avoid retaliatory killings if the snow leopard attacks the domestic livestock.
- Grazing set aside areas: separate grazing areas have been created to keep away the livestock from the attack of Snow leopards.
- Nature club and youth action Council has been created to encourage community participation in the conservation of snow leopards.
- Conservation education programs have been carried out in the snow leopard habitat to create awareness and education about the conservation of biodiversity, especially the snow leopards.
- Research camera programs have been carried out, to keep track of snow leopards in their habitat.
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- The project was launched by the MoEF&CC incollaboration with UNDP.
- The plan intends to conserve the snow leopards by protecting their habitats and improve the ecology of Himalayan ranges and lives of the mountain communities.
- It covers Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.
- Strengthening and improving protected area network
- Landscape-level approach for wildlife conservation
- Control of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife
- Mitigation of human-wildlife conflicts and
- Management of tourism in wildlife areas
- SECURE Himalayas project is spread over 6 years.
- The objective of the project is to secure people’s livelihood, restore, conserve and use sustainably the high range ecosystems of the Himalayas.
- The key focus of the project is on improving the enforcement to ensure the reduction in wildlife crime, protection of snow leopard and other endangered species and ensuring a secure livelihood to the people in the region.
- Protecting the people’s livelihood has taken top most importance under the SECURE Himalaya since the relative remoteness and isolation of the communities in the mountains (which includes tribal communities) has rendered them the last preservers of their heterogeneous culture and local knowledge that has a global impact.
- Stringent monitoring and better enforcement measures will be taken to inhibit the illegal trade in medicinal and aromatic plants in these parts. These plant species are especially vulnerable since they are threatened species.
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UNIDO (United Nation Industrial Development Organization) has accompanied and support numerous biogas, biomass and biofuel projects in the past worldwide. To compile and share experience, UNIDO held an Expert Group Meeting on biomass with participants from various countries and backgrounds to discuss the lessons learnt for successful biomass projects.
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Katharina Danner was invited as resource person for biogas, giving her expertise on international biogas projects to the participants.