Third snow leopard death reported from Uttarakhand's Gangotri National Park in past...

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The death of a snow leopard in Uttarakhand’s Gangotri National Park on Tuesday is the third fatality of the rare and protected animal in the past five years. The seven-year-old female snow leopard that died near the Nelong valley in the park on Tuesday was unwell and could have received injuries from a fall, said authorities.

NB Sharma, deputy director of Gangotri National Park said, “Our staff found an unwell snow leopard ‘Dumkutiya’ while patrolling on Monday. A medical team and the divisional forest officer were informed on Tuesday, but by the time the team reached, the snow leopard had died. It seems it might have fallen off a cliff and was unwell due to that. We have sent its viscera sample for testing at Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly.”

Sharma said, the first snow leopard death in the park was reported in the year 2015 from Nelong Valley and in 2018, the carcass of the second snow leopard was found from the same valley.

Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has estimated the current numbers of snow leopards using extrapolation based on habitat quality and snow leopard density. According to S Sathyakumar, senior scientist at WII, India likely has around 516 snow leopards--86 in Uttarakhand, 90 in Himachal Pradesh, 285 in Jammu and Kashmir, 13 in Sikkim, and 42 in Arunachal Pradesh.

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Snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is facing threats to its existence due to poaching and habitat destruction. It inhabits the Himalayas at elevations ranging from 3,000 to 4,500 metres. It is a Schedule I animal under the Wildlife Protection Act of India and is listed as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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Earlier this year, a national protocol for snow leopard population assessment was undertaken by Dehradun based WII along with Karnataka-based Nature Conservation Foundation. The project is on the lines of the global project named ‘Population Assessment of World’s Snow leopards (PAWS)’ carried out by 12 countries where the highly rare animal is found.

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