Report on Snow Leopard Habitat

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    In Context 

    Recently, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) released a report on Snow Leopards.

    Major Highlights Of Report 

    • More than 70 per cent habitat of the snow leopard, over 12 Asian countries, remains unresearched.
      • This may have bearings on the conservation of the species.
    • Snow leopard research intensified in the 1970s and studies on snow leopards have continued to increase exponentially since then. 
      • However, just four hotspots of snow leopard research (sites with continued multi-year research) have emerged, with less than  23 per cent of the species’ 1.7 million sq km habitat having been explored by researchers.
    • Nepal, India and China had conducted the most snow leopard research, followed by Mongolia and Pakistan.
    • Reasons for less exploration 
      • The snow leopard lives in rugged terrain — some of the harshest landscapes on the planet — so research poses significant logistical challenges.
        • Serious efforts to learn more about the species began in the 1970s but the snow leopard’s remote and vast range and elusive nature mean that most of the habitat is still unexplored.
        • It highlights that lack of basic data could be hampering its conservation.
    • Threats highlighted 
      • Globally, there could be as few as 4,000 snow leopards left in Asia’s high mountains and this remaining population faces continued and emerging threats.
      • Increased habitat loss and degradation, poaching and conflict with communities have contributed to a decline in their numbers and left the species hanging by a thread in many places.
    • Suggestions  
      • As part of its conservation strategy, WWF supports vital research including the use of camera traps and satellite collaring, to collect more data on the elusive big cat. 
      • In recent years, there has been a growing global focus on national-level population assessments and several range countries, and NGOs, have come up with nationwide snow leopard numbers.
      • We need to build a more accurate picture of the status of snow leopard populations and establish baselines and indicators for both snow leopards and their prey species so that range states can better assess future changes and evaluate the impact of conservation actions. 

    About Snow Leopard

    • Scientific Name: Panthera uncia.
    • Habitat: Cold High Mountains.
      • These are found in 12 countries including China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia & Mongolia.
    • Diet: Carnivore & hunt blue sheep, Argali wild sheep, ibex, marmots, pikas, hares, etc.
    • Features
      • One of the world’s most elusive cats & are perfectly equipped to thrive in extreme, high-elevation habitats.
      • Insulated with thick white-grey coats spotted with large black rosettes & wide, fur-covered feet act as natural snowshoes. The tail helps in balancing and also covers the body while sleeping.
      • Shy & rarely seen in the wild.
    • Threats
      • Increased conflict due to expansion of human settlement & livestock grazing.
      • Poaching for trade in body parts and fur.
      • Climate change & shrinkage in habitat.
    • Conservation
      • Establishment of protected areas like sanctuaries & corridors.
      • Strengthen enforcement against poaching.
      • Building awareness.
      • Protection Status
        • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable.
        • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I.

      Image Courtesy:WWF

    About World Wide Fund (WWF)

    • It is an international non-governmental organization.It is the world’s largest conservation organization.
    • Established in 1961.
    • HQ: Switzerland
    • Objectives: Conserving the world’s biological diversity.
      • Ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable.
      • Promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
    • Reports & Programmes: Living Planet Report
      • Earth Hour
      • Debt-for-nature swaps
      • Healthy GrownPotato

    Source: DTH