Remote camera trapping has been used by snow leopard researchers now for many years. How it works is, a researcher will set up a camera in a hidden area, perhaps behind boulders and rocks and when a snow leopard walks past, the movement triggers automatic taking of photos.
The camera of course cannot tell the difference between human movement and animal movement and therefore automatically snaps anyone and anything. Hence this good news story about how remote camera traps are now helping snow leopards in a different way.
The Nanda Devi National Park is a national park situated around the peak of Mount Nanda Devi, which is 7,816 metres high in the state of Uttarakhand in northern India. It is part of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, which includes Nanda Devi National Park and the Valley of Flowers National Park, and it was was declared as biosphere reserve under the Unesco’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme in 2004.
In March this year authorities of the Nanda Devi National Park were delighted to see three snow leopards on a picture captured by one of their cameras installed inside the park. The park authorities are limiting the amount of information and photos they make public in order to safe guard the location of the snow leopards.
It was the single biggest sighting of snow leopards in the park but now news is emerging that the same camera traps are helping to keep poachers out of the area.
Director of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Mr S Raisaily said that as well as monitoring wildlife, the over 60 camera traps they have installed are proving to be a major deterrent to poachers. Last year 26 alleged poachers were caught on film and subsequently arrested. Word has also spread to potential poachers in the region that they will be caught on camera.
“This is proving to be a big discouraging factor as people with anti-wildlife mindset now understand the consequences after getting caught on cameras and we regularly monitor all the images on the cameras,” he said.
An unexpected outcome from the research which we hope will help snow leopards in this park survive.
Organisations involved in the Nanda Devi snow leopard project include the Wildlife Institute of India. The work is part of ‘Project Snow Leopard’ being implemented by Ministry of Environment ancd Forests (MoEF), Government of India.