Snow Leopard Skin Recovered in Uttarakhand

Dehra Dun: The recovery of a skin of snow leopard from two persons (one managed to give the slip), by a team of the Special task Force of the Uttarakhand Police, has given sleepless nights to wild lovers, who feel that one of the most endangered of the cat species and of whose numbers there is no official count, is also on the hit list of poachers

What is more alarming is the fact, that a snow leopard had recently been captured on one of the camera traps that have been installed in the Nanda Devi National Park Valley to ascertain their numbers in this small mountain state and had been given wide publicity. Fears are now being apprehended that the recovered skin, could have been of that very animal, who probably fell to the poachers.

The reason for this is the fact that the arrested person, Ravindra Singh Bhandari has reportedly told the police that the skin had been got from the Hemkund Sahib, region, which is in close proximity to the Nanda Devi National Park valley. However, he denied having any further knowledge, claiming that it had been handed over to him by Deepak Negi, who gave the slip to the police team.

Police sources here said that the duo was going to sell the skin in Delhi, but they had got a tip-off, on which they managed to nab one of them with the skin. The skin is said to be valued at about 1,00,000 US dollars in the international marker, and probably more, but how much it would have gone for in Delhi is anybody’s guess, and most probably a deal had been struck, they claimed.

It may be mentioned here that the number of the snow leopards, found in the higher reaches of the Himalayas in the country is very vague. The reason for this is attributed to the fact that their habitat is in a very difficult and hard terrain where wildlife or forest department staff seldom spend time because of the snow and minus temperatures.

However, locals living in this terrain have reported sighting the animal, albeit on very rare occasions, while some have even reportedly lifted their dogs. It is to know their exact numbers in the state in the state that the camera traps had been installed at some of the protected Park areas in the upper reaches of Uttarakhand.

But a disturbing trend is that poaching of this elusive animal has been going on in the state for some time. Though from 2003 to 2012, there are reports of five snow leopard skins having been recovered, but these are the cases that have been caught. How many smugglers have managed to give the slip to the authorities and slip away, is the important question.

Said to be one of the most beautiful of the cat family, snow leopards generally inhabit terrains at height ranging from 3000 to 3500 metres, moving up and down in search of food. They become most susceptible and fall to poachers in the winter months, as their habitat is under heavy snow and they move down to lwer heights in search of prey, and that is when they are killed.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor (Uttarakhand) at Himachal Media. Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

1 Comment

  • Lt Gen Dr Mohan Bhandari says:

    I first saw the skin of Snow Leopard at the GARHWALI Mess, Lansdowne in early sixties.Beautifully preserved & majestic ,it was so beautiful & furry with a long bushy tail.Later when I was posted at Lansdowne, I read about this ‘out of this world’ game trophy that was presented by a Royal Garhwal Rifles Officer.By the side of it, is displayed another dark brown panthers skin equally well preserved in all it’s beauty .Incidentally, the GARHWALI Mess is home to some of the world’s rare game trophies in addition to other artefacts & historical items depicting the glorious innings of the illustrious GARHWAL Rifles spanning 125 years.
    I was posted in Ladakh in early eighties. Due to heavy snow, we could not cross Chang La by transport.Since there was an operational emergency, we set out on foot to Darbuk. We were picked up short of Tangshe & stayed overnight there.The next day early in the morning, we started for Chushul .It was an apology of a road & somehow the jongas moved on. Enroute to Kazikongta La, we saw a number of Kiangs & huge Marmots in the valley.Lo & Behold, just near the Pass, there was this beautiful cat perched atop a huge boulder.Before,either of us could take out a camera/binocular, it leapt off & disappeared in icy mountains.We were triple blessed !
    It is a matter of shame that poachers are roaming free in & around the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Uttarakhand ,unfortunately, has become poachers paradise.Tiger/Panther/Bear Skins, their bones & body parts are being smuggled through Nepal to China.One is sick & tired of hearing of the heinous acts of the poaching Mafia that occur with astonishing regularity.
    The culprit should be given an exemplary punishment.. Also, he should be interrogated at length to get to other culprits & the Mafia Gang.I do not know as to what the Forest Department would do in the days to come. Uttarakhand is losing on all fronts. Only divine intervention may help !

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