Snow Leopard Sighted In Lahaul Valley

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Manali: A trap camera in Lahaul valley has captured footage of an elusive snow leopard that is out on an Ibex hunt of a pack near Udaipur. This is first time that this most endangered species has been captured on camera in this area.

“I’ve been trying to film a snow leopard on my camera since 2010. Finally I received the gift from Lord Shiva on occasion of Shivaratri,” said Shiv Kumar, an enthusiastic wildlife photographer, who is currently working as block officer in forest department in Lahaul.

“I had installed two trap cameras in the region. The entire valley received very heavy snowfall. I could reach my camera trap on Friday. Upon exploring the files, I stumbled upon a one-and-half minute footage where some ibex were walking past the camera. Suddenly I saw a snow leopard chasing them. The footage was recorded on January 16,” he said.

Wildlife department has established many tap cameras in Spiti and Kugti sanctuaries to record movement of the snow leopard but no such cameras has been installed in vast Lahaul. The residents claim to have sighted snow leopards many times here but the animal was not captured in camera. A person had last year captured a snow leopard somewhere near Keylong where the wildlife department officials also have claimed to seen pug marks of snow leopards.

A photo grab from footage of snow leopard captured in camera trap in Udaipur (Photo-Shiv Kumar)

Snow leopard is generally found above the tree line and prefers staying alone. May wildlife lovers search for him on hills for years but it is sighted by lucky people only. As the region has experienced heavy snow this season, the leopard and other animals come down to lower areas in search of prey. Wildlife department becomes extra active in winters as descending of the animals can trigger man-animal conflict. Its personnel also check poaching by regular patrolling. The experts are unable to count the exact number of snow leopards as they keep walking and change their habitat every day.

Shiv Kumar, who has been supported by his department to continue with his wildlife photography, has captured all the mammals and over 70 species of birds in cold deserts of Lahaul since 2010. Besides snow leopard, he has photographed Himalayan black bear, Himalayan brown bear, Himalayan grey langoor, Himalayan musk dear, yellow throated marten, Himalayan red fox, Himalayan weasel, Himalayan Tahr and Ibex. He has been motivating the locals for conservation and protection of Himalayan ibex who are the prime prey of Snow leopards.

“This is beautiful animal. It was just before the camera for few seconds. This camera trap was established near Udaipur just by the road going towards Miyar valley. Second camera was established at more altitude,” Shiv Kumar said, adding that he will continue to capture snow leopard to study its behaviour and habits.

Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice. He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express. With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology. Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.

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