I recently did a telephone interview with Radhika Kothari from the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust in Leh, the captital of Ladakh in northern India. She talked about the exciting camera research and community conservation programs they are doing, and this is some of the most successful snow leopard conservation work around.
Radhika and her team are very busy and here she explains some of their recent new initiatives to save the beautiful snow leopards in this part of the Indian Himalayas.
“To strengthen scientific research, we chose two areas, Ulley and Saspoche. We got 10 camera traps from Panthera and 5 from the Department of Wildlife Protection (Jammu & Kashmir) this summer. We got photos from these and counted four, possibly five individual cats. These 10 cameras were a trial but next year hopefully we’ll be able to set up between 30 and 40 cameras and that will give us good science to tell real number of snow leopards here.
We consulted with local communities all the way. And we do all this work with the collaboration of the Wildlife department here in Ladakh.
As far as the communities go, first we involved then with idea of camera traps so that they would accept the cameras and understand what they were for. Then the local people identified an area where there are ibex (major prey of snow leopard) and this area will now be solar fenced and the community is helping with that work too.
Another project we’re doing is livestock insurance program in western Lladakh and recently we opened our new Snow Leopard Conservation Interpretative Centre at the SLCIT offices in Leh. We showcase information on the cats and Ladakh wildlife and our work. Any one can drop in and for free watch 2 movies we show – Silent Roar and Ladakh Natural history documentary. We’ve also started selling the handicrafts made by local women so there are lots of good reasons for people to drop in and see us.”
I was very lucky to meet with these hard working folks last February when I trekked in Ladakh and saw a snow leopard in the wild. Snow leopard sightings here are very possible and the future wellbeing of the cats, their prey and the villagers that share the spectacular mountain habitat is being protected by the hard work of the SLCIT. Well done, team!