Snow leopards were considered some sort of a mythical creature in Arunachal Pradesh. There were reportedly many sightings of the feline but no evidence to support the claim. However, in what can be called a historic event, first photo evidence confirms the presence of elusive feline snow leopard in the high altitude region of Arunachal Pradesh at 3,900 metres above sea level.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-India’s recent study yielded photo evidence of snow leopards in Arunachal Pradesh — a state that is resplendent with biodiversity and yet largely unexplored. The state-wide survey carried out by WWF-India in collaboration with the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department was conducted from March 2017, focusing on the unexplored areas.
Speaking to Eclectic Northeast, Kamal Medhi, in-charge of WWF’s operation in Arunachal Pradesh said, ‘ We photographer the snow leopards by a camera trap set up at Thembang, one of the Community Conserved Areas in the state. Local people have talked about their presence in Arunachal Pradesh but we didn’t have any evidence to support the claim. In fact, in 2012, we had gone on an expedition to Western Arunachal Pradesh, where we found hides and kills of leopards. We assumed them to be snow leopards because it was unlikely that common leopards will be found at such an altitude.’
‘ We have also interviewed 300 locals, mostly yak herders and hunters and 80 % of them confirmed the presence of snow leopards. Now, Arunachal becomes the second Northeastern state after Sikkim to have a population of snow leopards. We will need more research to know about their behaviour and food habits. We know that Blue Sheeps are available in good numbers in that altitude and they might form the major prey base for snow leopards. Yaks are also found there though it is unlikely that snow leopards will prey on full grown Yaks’ said Medhi.
Omkar Singh, PCCF & Principal Secretary, Department of Environment and Forest, Arunachal Pradesh told Eclectic Northeast, ‘ Now that the presence of snow leopards in Arunachal has been confirmed, we will have further study to know about their population, habitat and plan their conservation accordingly.’
Photo credit- WWF