In the period May-July 2011 a team from Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust (SLC-IT), along with its partners, conducted a Snow Leopard population estimation survey.

Using remote camera trap captures and identification of separate individuals inhabiting the study area, of which the astonishing results have just been released.

The pilot study on the remote camera traps has been designed by Dr. Koutubh Sharma and Jigmet Dadul from the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust, both of whom also met our recent group in Leh for an exclusive presentation on their work.

The study is to serve as a pilot for setting up a greater monitoring program which should also serve to help validate the skills of field personnel in aging scrapes or pugmarks that will make up crucial components of the large scale monitoring program. 15 camera traps were set in chosen areas known to be regularly visited by Snow Leopards. Some cameras were placed in different valleys and others in the mountain ridges known to be frequently visited by the Snow Leopards.

From the first fieldtrip a total of 8 cameras from 5 different sites, and from the second field visit 5 cameras from 4 sites had captured Snow Leopards. After the collection of the cameras and the downloading of the pictures, a rough estimate was prepared. 6 individuals were estimated to have been captured by the camera traps placed by SLC-IT for the period May-July 2011. No-one really knows how many snow leopards there are, with estimates ranging between 4,000 to 6,500, but the work of the SLC-IT helps play a vital role in snow leopard conservation.

Thanks for reading

Chris Johnston

Author: Chris Johnston