New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) India Tuesday launched Project Snow Leopard to conserve the endangered species (Uncia uncia) across its habitat in the five Himalayan states in the country.The project is a manifestation of the government of India’s resolve to conserve biodiversity with community participation, Thiru S. Regupathy, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, said at the launch here.
The minister said the ministry has launched the project to give the specie the same status of importance in the high altitude as that of tiger in the terrestrial landscape.
The project will be undertaken in five Himalayan states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh with support from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Mysore based Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF).
While releasing the project document, Regupathy said snow leopard is globally endangered specie and an important flagship species of the mountain region.
They are at the apex of ecological pyramid and suffer the most on account of relatively smaller population size and also due to man-animal conflict. This situation gets further aggravated due to the hostile landscape forming its habitat.
The minister said snow leopard has been included in the list of species under the Recovery Programme to be funded through the umbrella scheme of integrated development of wildlife habitats.
Giving details of the snow leopard habitat, Regupathy said there are more than 26 protected areas in the Himalayan landscape where specie is reported. However, areas outside the protected areas are equally important for long-range species like snow leopard.
He added that India is endowed with the unique wildlife assemblage of global importance in the Himalayan and trans-Himalayan zones. Thus, implementation of Project Snow Leopard will give an opportunity for the conservation of this unique biodiversity.
Stressing on active involvement of local communities, the minister said securing of landscape for conservation, capacity building of staff, research on wildlife and human activities in snow leopard habitat, grazing and management policies, and education awareness, among others, would be vital for long-term conservation of the species.
The Himalayan region is home to at least 350 mammal species, 1,200 bird species, besides a large number of amphibians and reptiles, and numerous plants including with medicinal properties.