25 October 2016, Thimphu: There are atleast 96 snow leopards roaming within the alpine regions of our country within the altitude range from 3920m to 6930m. There are atleast 31 in Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP), 17 in Wangchuck Centennial National Park (WCNP), 9 in Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve (JKSNR) and 6 in Paro Division with few more individuals in other areas, revealed a nationwide survey carried out a team of national professionals from Department of Forest and Park Services. The finding was revealed during the celebration of fourth International Snow Leopard Day on Sunday, 23rd October 2016 at Centenary Park, Thimphu.
“Bhutan joins other global communities to celebrate this important day and proudly declares an estimated 96 individuals to be found across the mountainous terrain of Northern Bhutan,” states the press release, adding, “Bhutan might be the only unique place where this species thrive in shared landscape with the nomadic herders.”
Addressing the gathering, the Agriculture Minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said, “For the first time, we know how many snow leopards live across the kingdom of Bhutan. Lyonpo added that Bhutan is the first snow leopard range country to have carried out a national snow leopard survey, a crucial step towards understanding and saving the important, rare and endangered species. “This historic survey will allow us to devise the most appropriate management plan to conserve this remarkable big cat, their prey base and habitat,” he said. Lyonpo attributed such success in conservation to the visionary King and environmental champion, His Majesty the fourth King and His Majesty the King.
The survey also revealed the presence of snow leopard for the first time in JKSNR and Paro Territorial Forest Division, since they were able to capture images of its presence in these areas.
“There is a healthy snow leopard population, including in parts of the country we did not expect to find them, and there is still huge potential for growth,” said officials of Bhutan’s Wildlife Conservation Division. “This survey finding proves that Bhutan is a critical habitat for the snow leopard in the Eastern Himalayan region.”
“In many areas, populations appear to be declining due to retaliatory killings by herders who lose livestock to snow leopards, habitat loss and degradation, dwindling prey species and poaching for illegal trade. Climate change will exacerbate many of these direct threats and Bhutan being no exception to these emerging threats,” stated the press release
The celebration of 4th International Snow Leopard Day in Bhutan, with the theme “Ensuring harmonious co-existence of snow-leopards and Bhutanese Highlanders in a shared landscape”. was joined by Hon’ble Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji, Hon’ble Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji, representatives from the donor agencies, De-Suups, Teachers and Students from Thimphu Thromde, officials from Ministry of Agriculture and Forest.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Global Environmental Facility (GEF-5), World Bank (WB), Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC), Nature and Biodiversity Union of Germany (NABU), International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) and Royal Government of Bhutan supported the surveys.
Reported by: Ugyen Tshering, ICS
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