Once an elusive mammal, Snow Leopard, also identified as Him Tendua or Barfani Cheetah and even Mountain Ghost could see a jump in their numbers in the country. The frequent pictorial evidence from its habitat in higher reaches from different parts of the country give an optimistic sign towards its growing population.
There were times when sighting a snow leopard was a bleak possibility and their sole sign of presence was in the form of scats and pug marks. But with changing times and the introduction of camera traps, photographic evidence of the cat’s presence in their habitat in India has become very frequent.
Endangered Snow leopards in India are found at altitudes above 3,000 metres in the states of Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. Their sightings were scarce, and there have been so far few efforts to know their exact numbers.
Snow leopards, though, keep a commendable presence in the northwestern Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. While there were many unaccounted claims of snow leopard sightings in Uttarakhand, it was only in 2011 that for the first time, photographic evidence of a snow leopard was revealed in the Manari Laptal region of Nanda Devi Biosphere in the state. Many more photographs followed it through camera traps in Gangotri and Bageshwar regions. Besides Nanda Devi, Nelong valley, Badrinath Mana, Malari Lapthal belt are some of the higher mountainous areas of Uttarakhand that have a presence of snow leopards.
Another recent encouraging sign of the presence of snow leopards came from the Baltal-Zojila region of Jammu and Kashmir. The first-ever recording of the snow leopard from the Baltal-Zojila region has also renewed the hope for the elusive predator in the higher altitudes of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. The snow leopard population falls in Kishtwar and adjoining forest areas of the Gurez, Thajwas and Overa Aru regions of Kashmir.
While there has been little comprehensive estimation of the population of snow leopards in the country, the Snow Leopard Population Assessment of India has revealed a population of this elusive cat as 50 and 100 in the states of Himachal and Uttarakhand, respectively.
In 2009, Project Snow Leopard was launched in India to conserve this vulnerable cat. Since then much attention has been paid towards Snow leopards. The exact population of snow leopards are still to be ascertained in India, while a rough estimate puts this figure somewhere around five hundred. A comprehensive estimation of snow leopards in the country was certainly a need of the hour.